The Lost Art of Sitting Still

The kids are back in school. And for me, that means I have relinquished responsibility for two thirds of my charges for approximately 6.8 hours per day. Not that I'm counting. 

The combo of summer break and three kids gave me a run for my money. I kept my head above water but just barely, as I described here. But suddenly, my daughter started sleeping through the night which happened to coincide with the start of the school year, and I feel like a new woman. I can breathe.

So, during my first week of freedom, err the boys being back in school, I decided to take advantage of a chunk of time between clients and go sit by a lake. And by sit, I mean only sit. Typically, if I take the time to sit by a lake I am also doing something else like eating or reading or sending emails or scrolling Facebook. Because let's face it, my life is one long massive string of multitasking moments. 

But I decided I would see if I could just sit. Still. For five minutes. When do I ever do that anymore? Never. I mean, when sitting down to a meal by myself which is rare in and of itself, I am usually also doing something on my phone. When I watch tv, I'm folding clothes, ordering clothes, or online attending to some details in my tinies' lives. Even when I pray, I'm usually also showering, running, driving etc... Multitasking. Always. So, there, on the park bench I just sat.


You guys, it was hard. Really hard. My mind kept wandering. I started fidgeting with my fitbit. I meal-planned for the week in my head. I struggled to turn everything off. But as I sat and stared, I began to sink into the moment. I observed a host of cool cloud formations dancing in the sky. I witnessed geese splashing about. I soaked up the beauty of sunflowers standing tall, waving in the wind. I sat.

And for five minutes of my day, I felt like a human being rather than a human doing.

I think I will practice this art more often. When was the last time you sat still for 5 minutes or more?

Be still and know that I am God.

The Waiting Game {and how it can be good for us}

Are you currently in a holding pattern, a waiting period in your life? Maybe you're waiting for something but you don't know when it's coming or perhaps you're hoping for something but you wonder if it will come to fruition, let alone the when. Either way, waiting is hard. It goes against every attempt and desire we have to control our environment. It forces a crack in the illusion of control, and much of it is an illusion. So often we live with an if/then mentality - if I just do X then Y will happen. Finding ourselves in a period of waiting can throw a wrench smack dab in the middle of all of those if/thens.

As difficult as it is to be caught in the waiting game, it can also be good for us. Waiting presents us with a choice. We can choose to look out the window of our lives, wishing we were somewhere else, occupying space in someone else’s life or we can choose to be present in our own life, just as it is, in the waiting. And there’s a fine line between living vicariously through someone else and using their life as a numbing distraction from our own.

I currently find myself in the middle of a waiting game as I am 40 weeks pregnant today with my third child. That’s right, it’s my due date. And I am so very ready for baby girl to come. Perhaps more aptly stated, I am so very ready to NOT be pregnant anymore. But I have no idea when she’s coming. Which day this week or next week will our world be turned upside down? 

I feel caught in what I can only describe as an in between place. There’s a word for this phenomenon, it’s called a liminal space. It’s a space where you find yourself in between, where one thing or season has ended but the other one has not yet begun. Due to my exhaustion, nausea, and contracting belly, my life with my boys as I knew it has ended. For weeks now, I haven’t been able to exercise nor have I wanted to be outside due to the heat. I don’t have the energy to engage with my boys in our usual active activities. I started my maternity leave over a week ago and my dear husband has taken over most of the housework. Yet, the next stage, that of life with a newborn has not yet arrived. You’d think I’d be grateful, with all of this “time” on my hands but I don’t feel like myself and I don’t quite know what to do with myself either.

So here I am in the midst of a liminal space and it’s not the first time I’ve been in this kind of holding pattern in my life. There’s an opportunity for growth here, an opportunity to practice being present in the hard space of waiting. As I want to look forward, to wish away this time of waiting, I am challenged to stay right where I am and to ask, how can I lean into this space well? How can I look straight into my life, see and love the people around me, and inhabit my own life in this very moment, as weary and wanting as I may be?

The next season always comes. Whether it’s when we want it to or the way we want it to look, well, that’s another matter. But it always comes. The question is, how will we live in the space that fills the in between?



Birthday Reflections and A Holy Big Goal

Since I was born late in the evening, this is my first full day as a 41 year old, FORTY-ONE. That sounds old, to me at least. And lest I forget, my body is quick to remind me of my middle-age-ness. As I’ve spent the last week celebrating - and by celebrating I simply mean living out life like usual, with as much fullness as I can - it’s occurred to me how much our culture shapes us and steers us to do things a certain way, unless we are intentional about bucking culture, doing it another way. Culture tells us that our birthdays are supposed to be these huge celebrations with lots of people, the bigger the better, in every respect. Or at least that’s how it feels to me. But as I recently wrote about here, I am an introvert, and while I love people, big parties are definitely not my scene. So, in effort to live a little more authentically into who I am rather than who I think culture or people want me to be, I celebrated my birthday with a whole string of one-on-one fun experiences with people near and dear to me, as well as with my family. It was perfect. It was me. And it felt good to choose to do it that way.

Another way in which I think culture dictates our choices, if allowed to do so, is in the goals we set and the things we go after. I think our culture tells us to go after big dreams, but do-able things, dreams that are a reality - out of reach but not out of sight. Why? Because no one wants to fail. So we often set our goals big, but not so big that we might actually fail. We play it safe.

Well, at 41, I think I might be done with playing it safe. I’ve been talking quite a bit with both my kids and my clients about failure, the fear of it as well as the benefits of failing. I’ve also questioned what failure really is? And I’ve concluded that maybe the biggest way we fail is by not trying in the first place. If we try and we fall short, we feel vulnerable, we get up, we learn from it, we try again, and none of that sounds like failure to me. Not to mention that we often feel more connected to other people in our shortcomings than we do in our successes. 

So, I began asking myself, what are the things that I could go after or live into that I might very well fall short in? I’m ready to really go after the HOLY BIG things in life, to lay it out there, with the risk that I might very well fall flat on my face. As many of you know, I often set physical goals that parallel my every day life and hopes. And you may also know that this last year has been, shall we say, a rough year physically. Between my fractured hip and the miscarriage, my body feels beat up and out of shape. 

So, never in my wildest dreams did I think this would be the year that I’d attempt to chase one of my bucket list, holy big, I-truly-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-it running goals: The Imogene Pass Run. But I let my husband convince me to do the unthinkable, to sign up for the IPR and to talk me into believing that I could actually it. And by it I mean a 17.1 mile trail race that starts in Ouray, Colorado and climbs over 5,000 feet in 10 miles to the summit of Imogene pass at 13,114 ft. before descending 7 more miles into the town of Telluride. I know, crazy right? I mean, I think it’s crazy for someone who’s in shape, let alone someone coming off of the year I’ve had. But what was it that I proclaimed a few paragraphs up? At 41, I think I might be done with playing it safe. Well, there is nothing that feels safe about this goal. It is an absolute possibility that I might not make the cut-off times necessary to continue on in the race. My body may not even make it to the starting line. But I darn well am going to try.  And maybe success will look like listening to my body and pulling myself out of the race. And maybe it will look like running through fatigue and pain, feeling more alive because of it. So I’m going to train. I’m going to lay it all out there. I needed a fire under my behind and this is a rager. So, here goes nothing. Here goes everything.

Imogene Pass. Image courtesy of Chad Essex.

I also love that this is a point-to-point race, meaning that it starts in one place and finishes in another, with a really really large mountain in between. It’s pretty symbolic for where I have been emotionally this last year and for where I desire to be - not going backwards to where I was before, but going forward to a new, unimaginable place with new meaning - climbing the obstacles that stand in the way, looking for the beauty as I go, and embracing it all.

As I was second-guessing what I just signed myself up for, err, reading the course description on the race page, I came across this advice:

As you contemplate the journey ahead, remember: "To get to where you want to go, you have to start from where you are"; and think IFM: "Incessant forward motion". It is up to you to get yourself, by your own two feet, from Ouray to Telluride. Only through continuous forward motion, even at a walk if necessary, at low or high elevations, on steep or moderate terrain, and in good or bad weather will you arrive at the finish line goal. Then too, one must not forget to "Smell the roses along the way", and to appreciate the natural and human history through which you will pass, along the way.

Holy big goal. Incessant forward motion. No more playing it safe. Happy 41st to me. Let’s go.

Where are you letting culture or people dictate the choices you’re making? What is one thing that you want to go after but that you run the risk of falling short? I’d love to hear from you.

The Grief Now Is Because Of The Joy Then

On Monday of this week my mind was filled with memories of my dear and beautiful friend, Jenny, who was taken from this earth fourteen years ago. She and her twin sister had become like little sisters to me. Her death catapulted me into a season of loss and while it wasn't my first season of loss, it was a very profound and life-changing one. It was during that season that my life phrase, "love deeply, hold loosely" emerged. That phrase really was birthed out of the question, "why bother loving anyone when it hurts so much to lose?" Her death made me question my life and relationships in big ways. It triggered past losses and tested my ability to get close to people, to love, to be loved. Suddenly, everything felt so fragile, though I suspect it had been fragile all along and I was just living under some illusion of control.

After months of wrestling through questions, trying to swim out from under the waves of grief, I began to emerge with a strengthened desire to love and invest in relationships. It felt scary because the pain felt so real and so...well, painful. Yet I stumbled across the words of CS Lewis, in reference to losing his wife, "Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers any more. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chose suffering. The pain now is part of the joy then. That's the deal."

That's the deal. But there is some strange comfort in realizing that the pain you feel in loss, any kind of loss really, is because there was some joy to begin with. I currently find myself in another season of loss. It's been a string of losses actually, as I lost my ability to run and level of fitness with my hip injury, I had a great friend move away, we are experiencing some turmoil and loss in our church, and amidst all of that, after five months of trying, I got pregnant with our third child and then I miscarried. There has been a barrage of emotional waves for sure, but grief has been the biggest of them all. 

Whether it is the loss of a person, of a job, of health, of innocence, of safety, or of a dream, loss of all kinds evokes the same emotions, sadness, anger, fear, despair. They don't all come at the same time, though they may, and they don't all last for equal amounts of time. And they certainly aren't predictable. Like unwelcome house guests, they just come when they want and stay for as long as they want, even when you're begging for them to leave. It is safe to say that it's that lack of control that is one of the most difficult parts of grief for me. I don't want to start crying when I am in the grocery store check out line standing behind a mom and her newborn baby. I don't want to feel it then. I can't afford to break down in tears when I'm trying to get the boys out the door for school. I need to hold it together, or so I sometimes tell myself. But the truth is, I can't. The emotions come when they want to and actually, I think that's probably a good thing. A healing thing. I need to feel those things. Don't ask me why. I just know that I need to.

There are four truths that this season of loss, mainly the miscarriage, has imprinted upon me.

1) When there is a loss, we feel not only the absence of that which was lost, but we also experience a loss of expectations we had for the future.

2) Our pain informs us of how important that thing we lost was...whether it was a person or a job or a dream. We wouldn't feel sad about losing it if it didn't mean anything to us. The pain now is because of the joy then.

3) Loss attempts to shake our foundation and can leave us fearing more loss, unless our foundation is firm. 

4) When we choose to be vulnerable in our loss, it leads to deeper connection with those around us. And that is both a wonderful and terrifying thing. 

My hope is to write a little bit more about each one of these four statements in four separate posts. Is there any one statement that you resonate with in particular?