Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Snow Day

The phone rings abruptly at 5:30 am.  Our first snow day of the year.  A few more blissful moments of sleep. Blanketed in down while the wind and the snow whip outside our windows.  A seven year old tiptoes in, crawls under the covers.  "It's a snow day!"  comes the announcement from Dad.  Shouts of glee from father and son commence.  A five year old stumbles into the room.  His brother shares the exciting news.  More celebrating.

I learned a few things yesterday as I walked through my first snow day as a mom of kids in school full time.  In years past I have celebrated snow days because as a stay at home mom of little ones it meant that I had an extra set of adult hands to partner with me through the day.  I could get a few extra things done.  Or maybe steal a few minutes to myself.  Snow days were fabulous.  They were equal parts fun and useful.

As I switched off the lamp on Monday night I mentally went through my to-do list for Tuesday.  A day full of hours to work on crossing things off of my list.  My list that feels so important.  My list that can easily become a task master instead of a guidebook.  My list with which I have a complicated love-hate relationship.

When the phone rang at 5:30 Tuesday morning My List became in serious jeopardy.  This was not going to be a day to get a few extra things accomplished.  No, indeed.  As I stood at the dawning of a fresh wintry morning I realized that I had a choice to make.  I could fight and struggle, clawing my way through the day clutching my list.  Or, I could take the gift that was being offered to me.  The gift of a day with no where to go, to spend with the people I love most.

I am so thankful that I accepted the gift and opened it, for what a treasure it was. Sure, my house is a disaster.  I am even further behind on my list than I was when I went to bed Monday night.  But, we spent the morning in pajamas instead of rushing out the door.  I got to watch a Dad and his boy write their first screen play for an upcoming movie that they are creating. I cradled my coffee mug while playing Legos.  I sat on the wood floor until my backside hurt delighting in my seven year old as we looked through last years school work and art pieces.  Both of us marveling at the beauty and the growth that has occurred in what feels like such a short time.




We are walking back in the house after shoveling.  I look over and I see my husband laying in the snow gazing into the sky, soaking in the beauty of the snow flakes pouring down.  It is a small moment in time.  I am conscious of the choice.  Dinner needs to get started.  I lay down in the snow next to him.  I take the hand of the man I love and join in awe of the dance of white encircling us.  I beckon Boston and Myles to join us.  We all lay together, laughing, trying to keep our eyes open to the wonder and beauty that is falling on us.  Falling all around us.



The dinner dishes have been done.  A boisterous game of floor hockey played in the basement is finished.  Pajamas are on, teeth are brushed, and stories have been read. Uncontrollable giggles erupt as the boys  "hide" and are "found" under their blankets.  Finally, prayers are said and doors are closed.  I settle into the couch when I hear a little voice call out, "Mommy, can I have have one more snuggle?"  Up the stairs I go.  The answer a resounding yes!  It is in those moments that I realize that I made the right decision.  To say yes to this day for the gifts it could hold.  To say yes to these moments instead of yes to my list.  May I continue to say YES!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lifelong Love of Learning

A natural inclination towards slowness forces me to incorporate a strategy that many people wiser than myself teach and advocate.   The basic premise of this strategy is the concept of living your daily life guided by the standard of your personal "mission statement".  In other words,intentionally evaluating your life, deciding what you value most and then using those values to help you decide what things you deem significant enough to pursue, and which things, although possibly good things, should be left undone.

 I say that my bend toward slowness forces me to implement this because I simply am incapable of doing everything.  For better or worse it is just not a part of who I am.  Yet, I like everyone else do need to be purposeful in choosing which pursuits are most important and not just haphazardly allow my choices and schedule to be determined by default. At a later date I will share more about my mission statement, but for now I want to share a little about one facet in particular,



One of the tenets that guides my life is the passionate pursuit of life long learning. Having the ability and the opportunity to engage the world, to learn so many things in so many ways is a tremendous privilege.  It is a powerful privilege.  A privilege that I seek to cultivate.

Education and knowledge may seem common place. For many of us going to school, learning to read, having access to information is simply a part of being human.  So ordinary. As expected as breathing. It is so easy to forget that for much of the world these things that we take for granted are not a given. Many people have to fight and struggle in order to procure an education.  They long for knowledge and treasure the opportunity to learn.

Learning is a beautiful gift.  A gift that holds much potential and power.  A gift for young and old alike.  Not one to be discarded after graduation caps have been tossed and diplomas earned.  No, in fact I believe that when those days are done we are given the keys to an incredibly exciting and never ending adventure!

Every day we are presented with the choice to learn.  We learn from each other.  We learn from experiences.  We learn from books, and art, and music. Our resources are endless.  We are given the opportunity to dive into learning, to bask in the waves of knowledge and be saturated with it's beauty.

For each of us learning will look different. Part of the beauty of our world is the rich diversity created by the mosaic of different people. People with different interests and talents.  People full curiosity and questions. The important thing is not how you learn, instead what is important is that you are learning.  Find what intrigues you.  What piques your interest and leaves you longing to learn more? Find that thing and passionately pursue it.

I have recently been introduced to a new avenue of learning, and I have to say I love it! It has opened up a whole new world to me.

As many of you know, one of my passions is social justice.  I read all I can get my hands on regarding this topic.  I even began exploring the option of obtaining my Masters of Arts in Social Justice.  One evening Eric and I were discussing this option.  I was reminiscing with great affection the days in college when I could audit classes just because I wanted to learn the information. I could take the class not for the credit, but for the experience.  I wasn't motivated to learn because of the grade I would receive but purely for the knowledge I could glean.  It was beautiful.  Eric turned to me and casually said, "You know that you can take free college classes on line don't you?"  Wait! What?!  How did I not know this?

In fact, he is correct.  Renowned, major universities offer free courses on an endless array of topics. You can just sign up and begin learning!  You can dedicate as much or as little time as you have available to the course.  You work at your pace.  There are benefits to doing the class according to the prescribed schedule, but how you do the course is completely at your discretion.  It truly is an amazing resource!

There are several websites through which you can sign up for these courses.  Two that I recommend are https://www.coursera.org and https://www.edx.org .   Currently, I am taking a course from Columbia University entitled The Age of Sustainable Development.  Thus far, it has been a tremendous growing experience.  I listen to the video lectures, I take notes, and I do the assigned reading.  The excitement of broadening my scope of understanding and gaining the tools to help build a more just and beautiful world is hard to capture with words.


I can hardly wait to take more courses.  The possibilities are endless.  This is a way of learning that excites me, it is not the only or the best way to pursue knowledge.  Maybe you have always wanted to learn how to play the piano.  Sign up for those lessons.  Maybe you would like to explore your genealogy.  Go to your library and discover the resources they have available.  Maybe you want to learn to cook or knit.  Find someone who has the skill you would like to cultivate and talk to them. (I may know someone who would love to help you with knitting, wink wink) Maybe you have secretly longed to learn a new language or learn how to fix a car.  Whatever it is that you would like to learn, take a step towards it. Give yourself, and the world around you, the gift of knowledge.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pen and Paper

It sits on my brown nightstand.  A rough wooden 4x6 frame.  It resides next to my miniature Eiffel tower and my anniversary rock.  The rock shaped like a heart, found while walking hand in hand along the shores of Lake Michigan celebrating 12 years of walking through life together.



 A simple picture frame.  So simple one might look right past it.  Yet, its contents are a treasure.  A recipe.  The family recipe for cottage cheese pie penned in the scrolling handwriting of my beloved grandmother.  

She was one of the most vibrant and loving people that I have ever met.  She made life so very rich. She celebrated. She embraced. She selflessly gave. She radiated Jesus to everyone that she encountered.  
The frame bookends my days.  It is a beautiful reminder of the sort of person that I want to be. My glance falls on the familiar frame and I smile. Her memory embraces me. I remember who she was and I am inspired to choose moment by moment to love and to serve
.

A pie pan.  Nothing fancy or gourmet.  I turn it over and my breath catches in my throat.  A physical reaction to the surge of emotions flooding this moment.  I had not expected to see her beautiful handwriting.  Quickly written on masking tape so as to identify her pan at one of the many gatherings she was always a part of.  It is so ordinary, the jotting of a name.  But somehow when I see it, run my hand along it, it somehow transforms into something more.  It is a balm to that ache of deeply missing her.  




A card delivered in the mail from one of my favorite people.  It is addressed to our family and inside the author has written a message to each member of our clan.  My mind has returned to those words repeatedly since reading them.  There was something significant about seeing those words written in her hand.  The words took on a depth that may have been lost in any other form.




There is something deeply personal about handwriting.  It is unique, almost like a fingerprint.  Messy or neat.  Choppy or flowing.  Tiny or large.  It matters not what it looks like, it matters that it is yours.  It is beautiful because it is yours and yours alone.  



In our fast paced, efficient world we have lost the art of handwriting.  Sure, there is a time and a place to embrace the digital form, but I believe that we should also hold dear the pen and paper.  

Putting ink to paper captures something. A small piece of time, a piece of you. It is tangible, tactile, timeless.

What if we took the extra few minutes to write that note to a friend instead of sending them an email or a Facebook message.  What if we sat and penned our thoughts into a journal.  What if we jotted a quick note and tucked it in a child’s lunchbox.  What if …

As I turn the page on the calendar this week and embark upon a new month I am challenging myself to be intentional about writing more.  My goal is to hand write something everyday, and to pen something of significance at least once a week.  Maybe you would like to join me as I work to cultivate this habit. I would love to hear how you have been touched by a handwritten piece or how you incorporate writing into your world.  Let’s be creative together, documenting this beautiful life that we have been given.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Very Long Absence


Let me start by stating the glaringly obvious.  I have not written anything in a very, very long time. The reasons for this prolonged absence are varied and complicated.  Some reasons are legitimate and others are excuses. Yet, as I have waded and trudged through them, slowly analyzing, I have come to realize that I truly miss writing.  


Writing forced me to lead a more examined life.  I chose to look for the meaning in the mundane, in the minute, and in the momentous alike.  Moments that often scuttle by unobserved, undocumented become much more significant. Through the mixing and kneading of thoughts I learned a great deal. 



I also realized that I really missed the conversations that were started through this blog.  I was so blessed and encouraged through the written and verbal conversations that transpired.  I miss those, and I would love to have more of them.   

I hope that you will extend me grace for my very long departure. I hope that you will join me again as we seek to learn from the slow, simple life.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Charlotte's Web Wisdom

I had another post all planned out.  I had even started writing it.  But then I overheard this quote and I was so struck with it's simple, profound wisdom that I just had to share it.

My Myles is absolutely addicted to audio books.  Now, when I use the word addicted I mean it quite literally.  As soon as he stumbles down the stairs in the morning he turns on his CD player with a story in it.  He has stories in the car.  He will listen to stories all day long.  We have made the rule that the stories must be paused while we eat, but he is a serious book worm.  And I love it!

Often the stories filling our home will be listened to over and over and over again.  Such has been the case this week with the beloved classic Charlotte's Web.


 Like most people I have read the book and seen the movie, but it had been sometime since doing either.  Tonight Myles was listening in the playroom which is right next to our kitchen.  I was filling the sink with soapy water when I was utterly astounded by what I heard.

I shut off the water, went into the playroom and rewound the CD to make sure that I had heard it correctly.  Sure enough I heard it again.

Charlotte has assured Wilbur that she will save him from the awful fate that awaits most pigs.  But Wilbur is scared.  He wants to know what her plan is.  She tells him that she doesn't have a plan yet, but she will.  But when, he wants to know.  How can I help he asks, his anxiety bursting with every phrase.  Charlotte, always calm and gentle speaks these profound words to Wilbur,

“Never hurry and never worry!”
 
 
The simple beauty and truth of these words so resonated with my heart.  How often I am Wilbur running around fretting and worrying.  I become riddled with anxiety, when what I really need to do is embrace the wisdom of the spider, "Never hurry and never worry." 
 
I think that I shall have to go back and read Charlotte's Web  in it's entirety.  Who knows what other nuggets of wisdom are waiting to be rediscovered.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Embarking On An October Experiment


It officially feels like fall here.  I love the colors creeping into the trees.  I love being able to don sweatshirts and smartwool socks.  I love soup simmering in the kitchen.  But one thing I do not love is the upheaval of my routines and rhythms. 



The boys have been in school for almost a month now and I still feel like I just can't find a rhythm for my days.  Last year I established some routines that worked really well for me.  I was able to schedule my cleaning and exercise.  I worked hard to find a balance between activity and downtime.  Sure, there were days or weeks when life went off the tracks, but for the most part we were chugging along pretty well. 

And then fall began...

All of the routines that fit me so well, no longer fit.  I keep trying to squeeze and squish them every which way in an attempt to make them work.  But, the truth is they simply are not going to work this year.

I have spent the last month feeling frenzied.  I am always rushing.  Continually trying to shove more into the fragmented portions of my day.  Just one more thing.  I believe it will be so much better if I just quick do that one more thing.  But that one more thing snowballs into yet another.  All in an attempt to make home a desirable place to be.

The irony of that line of thinking and living is that in cramming in more and more as a means of creating a peaceful, inviting home I am actually wrecking havoc on the very place I am trying to guard. 

Yes, the dishes may all be done and the house straightened before we leave for school, but now  I am rushing around like a crazy lady.  And this crazy lady uses harsh tones of voice with her children and is creating an atmosphere of chaos and unrest during a foundational part of our day. 

Hurry, Hurry, Hurry ...

Yes, I may have accomplished my daily cleaning chore for the day and fit my run in before I needed to pick up Myles from young kinders, but the emotional and mental disaster that I left in the wake of my rushing is a steep price to pay for a clean bathroom. 

This continual loop of frenzied rushing has not produced the results that I thought it would.  Instead of getting more done I seem to keep coming up empty handed and quite frankly, tired.  Thus I have decided to embark on a month long experiment. 



I want to know, what would happen if I decided to do less.  What would my home look like?  What would our calendar look like?  Most importantly, how would the people who live in this house feel if I make a conscious choice to do life with less.

DOING LIFE WITH LESS
(AND HOPEFULLY)
 ENJOYING LIFE MORE
 
I believe that there could be many facets to this experiment.  I plan on taking time to explore different areas of my life in which I could do less.   But ultimately what I am searching to discover is would I (and my family) feel better if somethings were left undone.  Is there contentment to be found in doing less?
 
Maybe you would like to join me for this month.  If you have been struggling to find a balance for yourself and your family this might be a great experiment for you.  Maybe we find out at the end of the month that doing less doesn't help create a more peaceful home.  But, maybe it will.   
 


Friday, September 28, 2012

The Gifts

I received a gift this week.

It all started with a batman lunchbox.  A very cute, tin, batman lunchbox, which Boston was determined to acquire.   Much to his dismay I told him that we would not be purchasing the lunch box. 

Instantly my beautiful sweet three year old boy transformed, threw himself on the floor and began screaming.  It was a doosie of a meltdown let me tell you.  There was no way anyone in Target could have missed it, for that matter it is quite possible that everyone in town heard it. 

And here in Target is where I received my gift.  As I walked through Target with a child who by all accounts appeared possessed, I passed another mother with a young child who was smiling and content.  She smiled at me and said she was just starting her shopping, but that she would soon be joining me with a child melting down as well. 

I checked out.  I pushed my cart out in the parking lot, yes Boston is still screaming. Another mother caught my eye. She smiled, and she said, "I understand."

These women may have no idea how significant their words and smiles were to me.  But, they took what could have been an incredibly stressful, embarrassing situation and helped make it bearable.  Their gift to me was priceless.

As I began driving for home with a howling three year old in the back of the mama van I continued to steep in the beauty of the gift these strangers had given to me.  Then it hit me.  How often throughout my day am I presented with opportunities to be the gift giver?  Do I take seize or squander these moments.

 It was then that I realized I had underestimated the power of these small acts of blessing.  That too often I  have carelessly breezed by these opportunities to sprinkle blessing with out a second thought. 

This realization forced me to ask myself "why?"  Why do I waste these moments that are pregnant with possibility.  Why would I pass up the opportunity to give the gifts of  peace, of grace, of joy, of love to the people that I encounter.  Several reasons came to mind. 

  •  I get too busy and preoccupied with my own "stuff"
When I allow my world to start spinning too fast.  When I stuff my days as full as possible and then try to fit a few more things in.  When I allow my overflowing and oozing to-do list to dominate my mind and minutes.   When I allow perceived chaos to be my master I inadvertently put on my self-centered blinders just trying to make it through the day. And when I do,  I miss out on the opportunity to be the gift giver.


  • I get nervous or embarrassed
"What will she think of me if I say something?"  "I'm going to look like an idiot if I stop to see if they need help."  " I haven't even showered today, I really don't want to be seen like this."  I hate to admit how many times thoughts like these cross my mind.  Selfishness is such a sly deceiver.  It tricks me into believing that this moment is all about me.

The reality is that it doesn't matter what  the other person thinks about me.  Maybe she will think that I am a total loser for talking to her,  But maybe she won't.  Maybe, she needs to hear that it's okay, that she is not alone, that someone cares.  

  • I believe the lie that it doesn't matter
I pass someone on the sidewalk walking Myles into school.  It takes very little effort to smile and say good morning. 
When leaving school for the day, it takes  just a fraction of a minute to sincerely thank my child's teacher for the incredibly hard work that she does.  
It only takes me being brave enough to break the awkward silence to ask the cashier how her day is going.

These are not earth shattering encounters, but they are powerful none the less.  Our days are full of these brief encounters.  Opportunities to make someones day just a little bit easier. These moments do matter.


When I choose to slow down, put myself aside, and believe that these moments are significant I realize that these windows of opportunity allow others to have a glimpse of the Jesus who loves them more than anything.  How could I not want to be a part of that?