reorientation

I am taking my cue from the Joshua Tree. I have heard that when transplanting a Joshua Tree you must face it in the same direction it was originally facing in order for it to survive. I don’t know if this is an urban myth (I’ll just keep believing it to be true), but I like the concept. We each need a point of reference in life. A familiar direction.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. It comes on the heels of his baptism where he heard from above: You are my beloved on whom my favor rests. Evenso, I wonder if there was even a flickering moment when Christ thought, ‘Well I am pretty hungry’ when tempted to turn the stones into bread. The Devil is no idiot, that’s for sure. He goes straight to our most basal instincts. ‘Oh, you’ve been fasting for 40 days? How does this In-N-Out burger smell to you about now??’ I would definitely be tempted, wouldn’t you? And if a juicy cheeseburger doesn’t do the trick, how about fame and fortune?! Surely that would nail us all. It’s as if the Devil tempted Jesus by giving him 1M Instagram followers he could buy for the low low price of Selling His Soul to the Devil. And yet again – even though Christ was physically and mentally deprived from his fasting – he still resisted. “It is written”, Christ rebuked the Devil, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Once again, Christ overcame the temptations being leveled at him.

I can only assume that Christ heard – above all the noise of the Devil – his Father saying to him: “You are my beloved.”

When I accidentally eat more ice cream than I should, I am his beloved. When I am short-tempered with my husband for putting the pickles back on the wrong shelf in the fridge, I am his beloved. When I succeed and when I stumble, when I cry out and when I sail through a good day. My circumstances are not dependent on the simple fact that I am his beloved.

There are seasons of growth and there are seasons of feeling tossed mercilessly. Life is very life-y sometimes. Loneliness, confusion, uncertainty, fear…they are just as unbalancing to us as excitement, achievement and self-reliance.

I believe I am a great deal like the Joshua Tree. My physical presence (where I live) as well as my mental and emotional presence (how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking) function best when I am faced in the direction I was planted. The centering balance in my life can be found in the simple phrase that God said to Jesus when he was baptised and to each of us at our moment of belief: “You are my child. You are my beloved on whom my favor rests.”

In the midst of life and all of its craziness, we can hold tightly to that promise, stopping occasionally to reorient ourselves to it. We can withstand the temptations of physical need, prideful pursuits of self-importance and materialism. By consistently claiming that divine identity, it turns us ever-so-slightly back to our primary rooting as a beloved child.

I need to be planted toward the face of God. It is comforting and reminds me of what is important and what is merely a cheesy hamburger disguised as egocentric temptation.

Does life seem out of balance for you right now? Are you rushing and attempting and conquering as fast as you can? Taking time out of your day – even for a short time of deep, cleansing breaths – to remind yourself that you have been chosen. God is showing favor for you today. You are his child. His treasure. His beloved. Now go live under that unending umbrella of love and grace.

Learning the rhythm of relaxation…

It was an unseasonably cool day today. I know I have a long way to go with the California heat (and truly, I’ve enjoyed the warmth of it) but it’s also nice to have an incredibly cool day with the windows open wide.

We are excitedly anticipating a big group of family coming to see us at the end of the month. But of course that means projects and to do lists. Admittedly, I love to have looming projects ahead. I love the challenge of overcoming and conquering the unknown.

But I am learning more and more the value of stopping. Sitting for a few minutes. No, not just sitting but sitting and unwinding the Monkey Brain of mental activity even when physical activity has momentarily stopped.

“Destroy the idea that you have to be constantly working or grinding in order to be successful. Embrace the concept that rest, recovery, reflection are essential parts of the progress towards a successful and happy life.” – Zach Galifianakis

We DVR’d and watched the CNN show, Chasing Life, last night. Dr. Sanjay Gupta travelled to Norway – in the midst of their three month period of 24/7 darkness – to find out where they find their happiness (consistently ranked the Happiest Nation in the World.)

It was fascinating to hear their stories. Stories thick with personal challenge and empathy for others. Kindergarten classes held in the forest with little play supervision. Can you imagine a U.S. classroom teacher allowing their students to climb high trees?! It made me cringe to watch. And yet the students developed such a strong sense of independence and self-confidence. Not to mention how they helped each other through the process of play.

Dr. Gupta interviewed a ski-survivor. After a horrific ordeal in frozen water…heart stopping for several minutes…she was now alive and participating in all sorts of sports. When asked if she was back 100% her reply floored me:

“I’m not 100% but I am 100% of what I need.”

Do I have 100% of what I need? It is a worthwhile question to hold close for awhile.

As so many others in the world, I have felt such a heavy loss with the sudden death of author, Rachel Held Evans. And just like others, she represents such a moment of hope for me. I was at a crossroads when I found her blog. Having been brought up in a strongly conservative christian church, I was feeling at odds with what I understood God to be and how He was represented within the Church as a whole.

Rachel merged the contradictions for me. She led me through the difficult process of letting go of human church expectations and pointed me more fully to the face of my Heavenly Father. To compassion and forgiveness. To acceptance of all humans as possessing equal value in the eyes of God. I was challenged to look at the periphery of life and notice those that were being left out of the public conversation.

I have been simultaneously grieving her 37-year-old-wife-mother-of-two-young-babies presence in the world while also feeling challenged. When such a strong human advocate leaves a void, how is it best filled?

And with any tragedy, it shook my priorities. I spend more mental space than I care to admit on what my next Instagram picture will be. It suddenly seemed so meaningless. I mean, let me be clear: being on Instagram is not meaningless. Finding inspiration is never unnecessary. Nor sharing inspiration. But the amount of mental space it takes up in my mind is silly.

Everyone knows blogging is dead. Yes. I realize that’s a commonly accepted thought. In my heart of hearts I think it might experience an uprise as people tire of quick and easy and return to a deeper delve into thought and ideas.

I am not good at vulnerability. While I don’t believe in divulging everything to everyone, I would like to go back to a time that I was more open and honest with my blog readers. A braver time. I think there are areas in my life that might be similar to others. Things we tend to brush under the carpet and smile relentlessly.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we tried to work through some of that together? There is a place for frivolity and fiction in life. It’s good to sit back and relax. It’s necessary. But I’ve spent too much time in the realm of easy lately. Self-examination has fallen by the wayside; too wide of a pendulum swing.

Iron sharpens iron we are told. I need your input and advice. I value it. I need to re-learn to do life in partnership with others.

Drawing from Dr. Gupta’s discoveries: Challenges give us confidence and self-worth. It stimulates creativity. Spending time in nature, exercising, developing deeper empathy for others – all foundations of happiness.

I’m up for the challenge. How about you?? We need to take care of each other.

 

Mom’ish

I’m not even sure anymore what, indeed, is a ‘traditional mother’. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking I was too untraditional as a parent of two. School letters lay in a towering pile, unopened, until dust made itself comfortable. Sage wisdom and encouraging words came to me always too late for the needed circumstance; sarcasm and humor usually in its stead. Things I was supposed to discipline seemed immaterial while insignificant things loomed too large in my haphazard disciplinary arsenal. ⠀

“You wouldn’t know how to ground me anymore than I would know how to be grounded.” – a line from the movie ‘Easy A’ and one that my daughter pointed out as all-too-accurate for our relationship.

The older I get, however, the more *typical* I am finding those things to be within the brave community of motherhood. I’ve commiserated with other mamas who also felt the things they did – and didn’t do – seemed out of the realms of ‘norm’. I think untraditional is much more traditional than we know. ⠀

My mother was a 7th grade English teacher. She conjugated verbs and added ‘ly’ in all the appropriate places. A bit of her grammar-nazi thinking was eventually passed down to me as well. For that reason, this book title screamed out to me and within 5 minutes it was in my Amazon cart and soon after, on its way to my door. An early Mother’s Day present from me to me. I’ll circle the many recognized lines within its covers and add it to My Funeral file on my computer. (A desktop icon because they’ll never go digging any deeper than that.) ⠀

Don’t use funeral flower gladiolus unless you buy them from Trader Joe’s. Eliminate all cliches from your heartfelt tribute and by all means, if you use a cutesy, curvy font for my birth-death dates I will haunt you and your unborn children for eternity.

Mothers with a loose grip on your mothering style, do yourself a favor and grab this book. ⠀

There’s plenty of room in the margins for copious notes for your offspring…

Happy Valentine’s Day

There are a lot of people that boycott this day, I know. And I suppose I can imagine their angst with the day. But that’s mostly because we have elevated the ‘significant other’ part of the day and not all the other loves in our lives.

I sent out some of those boxed Valentine’s that kids get for their classmates to some friends and family – just to have a silly way to say ‘I love you’ on a day that celebrates just that. And I’m not certain, but I think even ol’ hard-hearted Haddie looked at me with a bit of love this morning as I poured her more cat food than usual.

Kids. Parents. Friends. Pets.
There are a many ways in which to receive and give love, no?

I must admit to have fallen down a bit of an Audrey Hepburn rabbit hole lately. All thanks to Mo Rocca and his fabulous podcast, Mobituaries.

Are you a podcast listener? I have a list of podcasts I really try to catch as often as possible although I need to figure out how to fit them into my book reading and blog reading schedule. I should be more protective every day with reading/podcast listening. But I’m still struggling like the rest of you, I’m sure.

That said, Mobituaries did a whole podcast about Audrey Hepburn – her life and her death. She has always been a fascinating personality but Mo Rocca whet my appetite even more. The thing with Audrey Hepburn movies is that I am never quite sure I’ve actually seen the movie or just know the movie title to be very popular.

So I sat down with a pile of laundry to be folded and a husband off at work one Saturday and watched Roman HolidayCould Gregory Peck BE any cuter?! Such a fun movie (albeit the ending……) What Hepburn movie should I watch next? I love the remake of Sabrina so maybe I’ll wriggle Hepburn’s Sabrina into my Saturday laundry day next. Do you have a favorite Hepburn movie?

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Valentine’s Day in Northern California has been rainy and blustery and Scott has been at work all day, but he just went back after four wonderful days off. We did all the crazy things we enjoy doing (which usually ranges from back-to-back-to-back running around town to vegging on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and a full DVR.) So a quiet day at home alone was actually a nice little back-to-normal thing to do – and also one of my lifetime true loves: solitude and quiet. -ha.

Sending you each a big, sloppy kiss and a hug that lasts a little too awkwardly long –

g

v v valentiney

When do you know if something is just ‘too much’? Coco advised always taking off one item of jewelry before leaving the house.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, however, I ignore all the rules. More is more. The more love the better.

I’ve started adding some Valentine’s Day things around the house. I’ll tweak and edit but it’s fun to just throw everything out there and adjust as the days go by.

I made some wonky, rustic hearts this year. I used old fabric and even a beloved Shabby Chic old sheet that I just can’t quit on. It wore a hole after years and years of use but I’ve kept it and have used it for many different projects. This year, these soft pink hearts.

I drew a wonky heart onto a manila file folder, traced it onto material, cut out the shapes, and sewed them together. I usually have a box of fiberfill but it must have been discarded in the move so I grabbed some cotton balls, pulled them apart and stuffed the hearts with those instead. Use whatcha got, pals!

I’ve had a unfinished wooden ‘love’ word for a couple of years but have never painted or done anything with it (gasp!, an unfinished project?! What?! ……#storyofmylife) But over the weekend, Scott made a rustic frame for me, we painted and stained it and voila’!, a cute finished project. Surely the very essence of the word love, no?

Pink, polka dot straws and Valentine’s pencils (I’m a huge sucker for cute pencils!)

And salmon-colored begonias from Lowe’s to add a little ‘live’ love to the mix.

This is one of my favorite phrases because it reminds me so much of Scott. I think I bought it the first year we were married. He does make me smile.

Do you decorate for Valentine’s Day? Do you cringe at the color red like I do? It can be hard to work with…until I shrug and say, ‘So what. Let’s dance, Red.’

(I have recently started a new Facebook page. Feel free to pop over and follow along there as well!)

Ex O Ex O

This cross-stitch piece is a few decades old. I’ve never framed it but recently ran across it while unpacking yet another moving box, and decided it needed to come out for awhile. I used a vintage hanger and hooked it on the edge of a hallway mirror.

But I didn’t make this cross-stitch piece.

My first husband, Larry, did. It was a hobby we picked up together and enjoyed during the first few years of our marriage – pre kids. He figured if Green Bay Packer, Rosie Greer could crochet, then he could cross-stitch (while he also coached college football.) Turns out, Larry got really good at it.

Each time I hear a commercial or movie refer to the ‘new family unit’, I can hear the critics cringe and roll their eyes. I’m sure it sounds like a rationalization to alter the look of a traditional unit like family. However, those of us living in a non-traditional household know all too well the depth of its meaning. And are grateful for a the enormous amount of grace it takes.

Larry’s mother recently passed away. She had led a good, strong life but the past few years had stolen her identity through the horrors of dementia. Our daughter, Hannah, told me Mammaw had died during the night and later that day I texted Larry. We exchanged a few texts and then, just as I had done when my mother died, he wanted to talk.

Now for anyone who knows Larry, his phonecalls aren’t conducive to the quick trip through Home Depot I was currently on – so I asked if he could talk in about an hour.

Once I got home and settled, I plugged in my phone and got a little snack…I mentioned he’s a long talker, right?…and waited for his call. We discussed memories we’d remembered of her. Funeral plans and thoughts about what was ahead, etc. An hour and a half of easy, safe talk with someone with whom I share history.

Larry and I give each other a wide space, each respecting the other’s world and privacy. But we keep up. And occasionally, our non-traditional family unit builds yet another strong bridge of mutual connection.

As always, he asked about Scott and said to be sure to tell him hello from him. It’s not done out of show, but out of a true appreciation for the people who also co-parent our amazing children.

God bless our home.
God bless our past, present and future.

God continues to bless this big ol’ weird family.

XOXO,

g