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Let Your Presence Be Your Gift

Let Your Presence Be Your Gift

“Let your presence be your gift.”

The words were embossed in gold on a creamy wedding invitation. I let them swirl around on my tongue and relished their silky feel. The play on words was luxurious and elegant compared to the functional “no gifts, please.” To the 10-year-old me, this phrase seemed like the height of eloquence.

Of course, being present is harder than simply showing up. You can, after all, attend to much of your life without really being there at all. While running errands, we talk on our phones. While washing dishes, we listen to a podcast. While playing with our kids, we mentally prepare for work the next day. We have mastered the art of being in two places at once, our bodies in one place and our heads in another.

I’m writing this week at Overflow for the rest of the post and hang out to read the rest of the #wholemamas talk about “presence.”

Why We Need Encouragers

Why We Need Encouragers

Beyond Walls
That was me on Saturday. No humblebrag here, I was honest-to-God ready to curl into a ball and cry. The nerves and self-doubt hit so quickly, I had no idea what to do with the energy. Lucky for me, I have among my Facebook friends some amazing encouragers. In less than two minutes, I had a self-confidence boost and had regained my excitement.

Many years ago, while leading an adult class on gifts of the spirit, a wiser woman than me spoke up. “I think my gift is encouraging people.” I nodded and smiled, as did most of the class. Inwardly, though, I was puzzled.

via GIPHY

Encouraging people? Anyone can encourage people. I felt as though I’d let this sweet lady down, leading her on a path where her “gift” wasn’t very special at all. (I know, this is horrible. Don’t judge, I was younger and full on in the throes of change-the-world-itis. I was pretty convinced that all world-changing had to happen on the grand stage of world events rather than the smaller platform of individual lives.)

Now, older and wiser, I can say with all certainty that the ministry of encouragement is no joke. It requires a generosity of spirit that is increasingly uncommon in today’s competitive, insecure world. Our news is filled with stories of hateful speech and ugly rhetoric. Our models in business and politics are self-absorbed and cutthroat. Our advertisements convince us that we’re not good enough unless we own x, y, and z products. We are a people convinced that we must win and win at all costs. Helping one another has no place in this picture.

Here’s where someone with the gift of encouragement can actually, literally, truly change the world. Being willing to light someone else’s flame is a counter-cultural move. It’s not the role of a weakling. An encourager isn’t someone who doesn’t have their own candle to hold. An encourager is someone whose candle shines bright enough that they can use it to light someone else’s.

My mistake was that I thought that encouragers were like cheerleaders. They’re very cool but not really necessary to the game itself. In reality, encouragers are more like coaches. They’re the pivotal role in every successful team. We need encouragers, period. In the words of Carol Brorsen over at Jamie Coats’s winged boots blog, encouragers “lift us from the hum-drum that blinds us to the truth of who we ARE”  http://www.wingedboots.com/about/

Encouragers see our best selves. More than that, they are courageous enough to reflect that back to us. This is the vital difference between an encourager and a discourager. Both see the potential of others. Both recognize the possibility for goodness, even greatness, in others. Discouragers see that as a threat. Where an encourager sees opportunity and abundance, discouragers see only scarcity and fear. They have bought into the notion that life is a zero-sum game. If one person has more, the other person must have less. When we believe this, we become selfish, closed off, constantly worried that someone else might have more. We lose the deepest kind of generosity–the generosity of love.

So, here’s a challenge for the week. How about if we thanked the encouragers in our lives? Because it turns out that even encouragers need encouragement. And we need them more than ever.


Linking up this week with the wonderful #wholemamas as we think about generosity.

Settling into the Unsettled

Settling into the Unsettled

“Pay attention to the transitions. They’re as important as the poses themselves.”

My yoga teacher says this to us almost as often as she says, “Relax your shoulders.” I am sure the two things are related. Somewhere along the way, I developed a head-down, shoulders-forward, power-ahead approach to tough times. That’s effective if the tough thing you’re facing is relatively short-lived, like getting through finals week or running a race. For life events that will take you more than a week, maybe two, the power-through approach is an utter failure. I should know, I’ve tried.

I had the immense privilege of talking to a few of you after I wrote about using our talents. The thing that came up over and over again is that we were all at a point where we were unsettled. Jobs, moves, kids being born, kids starting school, grown-ups starting school, kids leaving home…things that throw anybody off track. I caught myself saying, “It’ll be ok, just get through this rocky time and then you’ll feel better.” Which is almost true. Whatever current situation we’re in will end.

The rest of the truth is that we will always be in some kind of transition or another. Yes, maybe we’ll finally unpack after our move or the job will get less stressful or a new routine will solidify in the empty nest. We’ll feel better. Then something else will happen.

Life is lived in the transitions. Time passes. We grow older no matter how we live but if we pay attention to where we are–even as we know it’s not where we want to be–we might also grow wiser.

.Grow wiser

Many, many years ago a mentor told me, “God meets us where we’re at.” Her words were a soothing reminder that I didn’t have to have all of the answers to the questions of the universe in order to know God. It took me longer to apply the lesson to practical areas of my life as well as spiritual ones. I am learning, though, that we don’t have to have the perfect life in order experience God’s grace. God is in the changes as much as the steadiness.

Maybe it’s time we set aside that old “shoulder to the grindstone” approach to transitions and learn to settle into them. And breathe, always breathe, just like they say.


Linking up with #wholemama to write about the word “settle.”  If you’re getting deja vu, it’s because this is a re-worked version of an older post.  Sometimes we just need to relearn old lessons and these words speak to me today.  I’d love to hear how you’re settling into your life right now.

3 Fun Printables for Family Goal Setting

3 Fun Printables for Family Goal Setting

We’ve made it through week one of 2016!  Mine was wonderful–really.  Nothing spectacular, just good ol’ holy ordinary stuff.  I’m getting better at paying a attention to this, a year after starting a blog devoted to the subject.  I’ve never been much of a journal-er but I’ve always been a writer and communicator so it’s been really, really fun and fulfilling (and a ton of work!) to commit to a blog.  I learned so much and met amazing people (Did you know that there is an honest-to-goodness community of bloggers out there?  I only ever saw the back-bitey, snarky side of social media but I have made actual friends this way.)

I’ve also lost sight of some original goals.  My first plan for this blog was to share more practical, down-to-earth ideas for growing spiritually in the family setting.  I kicked off with the “Prayer Project,” which I envisioned would be a once a week idea for praying with kids.  That lasted a good few weeks.  First, I found I really wanted some space just to write about the spiritual life.  I think that became more important because I wasn’t doing a lot of speaking, preaching and teaching about the spiritual life.  I went from a busy schedule to settling into a new community and it took a while to get my groove back.  I also discovered that my format of trying a new prayer practice with my daughter each week and then writing about it was just too much pressure.  First, I had to find something new we wanted to try, then I had to do it, then I had to document the whole experience.  It wasn’t exactly helping me connect with God.

Now that I’m a big expert on blogging, and because I’m back in some physical places where I’m working with children and families, I want to pick that practical spirituality part back up again.  I’d like to commit to blogging twice a week, once with more “spiritual life narrative” kind of stuff and once with more “practical ideas” kind of stuff.  It’s a tentative goal, though.  I’m going to take my own advice and try it through February.  After that, we may be back to inconsistent weekly postings.  Which is, you know, exactly what you shouldn’t do if you’re trying to “GET RICH BLOGGING!” but that was never a goal.

On to the printables..

One of the best things I did last week was sit down with my family and do some goal setting.  You should know that I have said at least once a week for the past year, “Let’s set some family resolutions.”  “Let’s make a family mission statement.”  “Let’s create a family vision board.”  When I suggested that we should each create a personal mission statement last fall, my daughter said, “Your mission is to torture us.”  To which I replied, “Fine, my mission will be to torture us all into better living.”  And that’s pretty much the attitude we went into our Sunday night family meeting with.  Here’s where I get to say, “I told you so, family!”  It was actually fun.  And we all actually did some goal setting, reflecting and Deep Conversation on life.

I owe it all to this handy dandy printable from Heather at Moritz Fine Blog Design.  This sheet is fun and inviting to fill out plus it has some greatprompts.  We started by just filling out our individual sheets, then on a total whim we passed out sheets to the right.  Now we had the chance to add something to someone else’s sheet–either a memory or a goal.  Then we did it one more time so that we’d gone around to everyone.  (There’s only 3 of us.  If you try this in a bigger family, let me know how it goes.)  Now we each have a sheet with our own goals, memories and dreams plus some suggestions from others.  Please do keep your expectations realistic.  My sheet came back with a goal from my daughter that I “be nicer,” and a goal from my husband that I forgive his “stupidity” more quickly.  But with an open mind, that’s actually some good feedback.

I also like this printable from Skip to my Lou.  If I was a scrapbooker, I would absolutely have kids do this every year and keep them.  It would also be great in a classroom or a Sunday School.  I am a big believer in taking time to reflect on things and I think we don’t do enough of that as a society, much less with our children.  So this is a fun and inviting way to get kids thinking about successes, failures and the future.

Finally, there’s this one from Spark Parenting.  It’s tucked in a newsletter about family goal setting so go to the back for the printable.  (The bits of advice are great, too!)  This is pretty different from the others–it’s not as fun looking, for one thing.  It’s also a lot more goal oriented, as opposed to memory and hopes oriented.  Now that I’m on board with torturing us into better living, I’m thinking of using this one to work through one specific family goal that we set.  And also using it personally to work through one of my more intensive goals for 2016.

Next up on our family’s plan for January is a vision board.  I’ll see how that goes and let you know.

 

Two New Posts, A Mistake and An Apology

Two New Posts, A Mistake and An Apology

Last week I moved blog hosts. This was almost a completely seamless process, mainly because I had someone else do it for me. The wisdom in this was emphasized when I realized that the one part I was in charge of–moving the follower list to the new platform–didn’t happen. So, here are links to the two posts from last week. The most recent, When Fear Takes Hold, is particularly timely and one I’m passionate about. As always, thank you for reading. Happy Thanksgiving!

When Fear Takes Hold: Finding Compassion in a World of Terror
“Somewhere along the way, I had confused “don’t be afraid,” with “there’s nothing to fear.” Those are two different things and only one of them is the way of Christ.”

A Deep Desire: When Spiritual Fluff isn’t Enough
How many times do we encounter a restlessness in our hearts and try to beat it by flipping on the TV? Gossiping? Reading?

Book Review Friday! The Year Without a Purchase

Book Review Friday! The Year Without a Purchase

“Dude, I vote patio.”

This was the subject of an email I sent to my husband this week. I went on. “The concrete guy was just here to give an estimate. We’ll have to take a huge chunk from savings but I think it’s worth it. It’s really a quality of life issue.”

Wait, a quality of life issue?

Now, here’s what I meant by that:

  1. Our current patio is miserable. It is flagstone in gravel, clearly a DIY job by the previous owners.
    1. The weeds grow faster there than they do anywhere else. I weed whipped our patio several times this summer.
    2. The unevenness of the gravel/flagstone combination has led to more than one chair nearly tipping over backwards when someone tries to stand up.
    3. The step from the door to the patio is 18 inches.  Height that steps are supposed to be?  7 inches.
  2. Due to all these factors, we do not ever sit on our patio.
  3. We like to sit outside. We have a lovely view of the mountains in one direction and the prairie dogs in the other.
  4. Our neighbors and friends all have lovely patios and I feel ashamed of ours.
  5. We do not have a backyard tiki bar, which would be awesome.

But quality of life issue? I quickly amended my email to say, “obviously this is a first world problem,” because I felt ashamed of myself for using the words “new patio, savings, and quality of life issue” in the same sentence.

This is the kind of thinking that author Scott Dannemiller draws our attention to in his book “The Year Without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting.” The title is true to the book. Dannemiller takes us through the ups and downs of this challenge, which he and his wife embarked on after feeling disillusioned and discontent with a life that is largely driven by acquiring things.

The-Year-without-a-Purchase

Perhaps the most compelling part of Dannemiller’s story is the combination of revolutionary thinking and typical American living. I love the stories of people who cast off all materialistic concerns and live off-grid. I browse tiny houses on Pinterest and imagine buying 30 acres in the middle of nowhere where I can spend my days happily producing my own food. I cannot live that life, nor is it practical for most people.   (Cities and towns exist for a sociological purpose, after all.) Still, I do want to live an intentional life and this gives me a way to think about being revolutionary in my own suburban American setting.

Tiny House
You see yourself in that chair, right?

Dannemiller expertly blends his personal stories with research and theology. He talks about the challenges of raising children with real attention to the decisions we have to make. Obviously, we know that a new backpack isn’t a “quality of life” issue—or is it? We all want children who aren’t materialistic brats but we also want children who aren’t bullied, taunted and excluded due to their cast-off clothing. What’s a parent to do?

Jockstraps and underwear come up more than once in this book, reminding us that the political can be very, very personal. Dannemiller doesn’t shy away from the stories but tells them with all the grace possible when discussing undergarments. I was reminded as I read that many people do not have underwear, hygiene items or other things that make up the very basic part of our household. Solving problems of poverty and inequality are amazingly complicated, coming down to the most basic and unsexy things making a tremendous difference.

Most importantly, the book is inspiring, not scolding. I was two chapters in before I was ready to take on my own year without a purchase—almost. I might start with a month. (I did a week several years ago.  It was harder than you think.)  But the real point is that my commitment to being less materialistic was renewed and stretched.  I will definitely start by implementing some of the less drastic ideas that Dannemiller suggests, and some of the solutions that they find along the way. (Heads-up, family, you’re all getting experience gifts for Christmas this year!)

Want a quick peak right now? You can also find Dannemiller over at his blog.  Seriously, though..this book is worth reading.

As for Book Review Fridays–I don’t know whether that will become a thing here at Barefoot Family but I like the idea.  I’d actually like the idea even more if other people wanted to read and write along.  Any takers?  Message me here or find me on Facebook if you’re up for writing about a book you loved.

Happy long weekend!

Your Story is My Story

Your Story is My Story

Your story is my story

I grew up hearing family stories around the dinner table.  Alright, it wasn’t all smiles and rainbows.  There was also spilled milk, sibling rivalry and gagging over vegetables.  Around all that, though, there were stories about our grandparents, our great-grandparents, our parents.  And we soaked them up.  (My sister went on to teach college history.  If that’s not proof that we soaked it up, I don’t know what is.)  And me…well, I went into the story telling business.  Long, long before I took up writing here, that’s what I was doing.  I was telling stories and the stories I was telling were true ones.  They were stories about life, God and all the things in between.

This is why I was surprised by a two conversations I recently had about writing.  In both, people expressed a certain apprehension.  There were compliments, but of the puzzled kind, about the whole blogging thing.  In the end, I was given credit for being brave enough to share my deepest thoughts and stories with the world.  Then it was my turn to be puzzled.

See, I never thought I was sharing my deepest stories.  I’ve been sharing our deepest stories.  Yours and mine, I mean.

The struggles of parenthood?  Finding our purpose?  Looking for something sacred while staring at a to-do list of dirty laundry, broken dishwashers and jobs that pay the bills but don’t provide much else in the way of life satisfaction?  Those are universal struggles.  They are struggles of every single human who has every lived.

I’m not doing anything new here.  My life isn’t glitzy or star-studded, it’s not unique and it’s really only special (to me, anyway) because I’m living it. My writing isn’t about letting you peak into my life, as though you need an added bit of entertainment, it’s about inviting you to peak into your own lives, as though they are endless windows into the sacred, just waiting to be discovered.  Because they are.  Your life, as it is, is a window into the sacred.

Your life2

Another way to look at it is through the lens of what church-nerds call the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. (Makes you want to run right out and get one of those, right? Clearly no one with a sense of humor is labeling these ideas.) The idea is simple though: we can know God by looking at four things:

quadrilateral

See how it makes a square quadrilateral?  But more importantly, see how our actual lives become places where we can know God?  Experience=Our Lives, in real time.  Reading, thinking and hearing about God are great but so is living.

Any discussion of Big Ideas has to make sense in our life, otherwise it’s just ivory tower, blabbering nonsense. Which I’m not interested in. I have no use for a God that makes sense on paper or in church but doesn’t make sense on the streets, or the conference room or at home. I believe in a three-dimensional God, a God comes to us in words and stories and ancient traditions but also moves off the page and into our lives. And when we tell our stories—all of us, not just me—we add to the collection of wisdom that is out there, learning to live lives worth living.

At the end of the day, I tell my stories so that you will tell yours. And sometimes I tell my story so that you’ll recognize yours. I tell it the same way a singer puts your love story to music and it becomes your song. Or the way a painter captures your childhood and every time you see that picture you are touched by Something Bigger.

We’re all in this together, trying to make sense of life and love and faith, trying to find a bit of holy ground on what looks like a very ordinary mountain. I tell these stories because they are also your stories. But mostly I tell them because I want you to tell them too. So if you need space to share or someone to share with, consider this an open invitation. I’m here, let’s share the journey.

Walk in Beauty

Walk in Beauty

Walk in Beauty
Oh, Beauty. Such a lovely, complex topic. Too complex, it seems, to write about. I made lists and lists of things about Beauty. I googled poetry and I listened to podcasts and I put books on hold at the library. I found this Jewish prayer, too, in the tradition of the bracha, a prayer of praise that always begins “Blessed are you, Oh Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe…”

Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has such [beautiful things] things in the Universe

I vowed to make this part of my daily practice–noticing and being grateful for beauty when I see it.

dandelion

I found poetry, some of which was actually about prettiness but was labeled “beauty” and some of which was really about Beauty. I thought a lot of really interesting things, too, but none of them would put themselves on the page in coherent thought. So instead of writing my manifesto on Beauty today, I’m simply offering you this, a blessing and a prayer:

Today may you walk in beauty,
not the kind that is skin-deep or fleeting
but the Beauty that comes from having eyes to see
and hands to share the goodness all around.

Today may you walk in Beauty.
May you feel the air on your face as the very breath of God
and the sunlight as a loving nudge
pointing you to look toward all that is good.

Today may you walk in Beauty
carrying with you peace for those who need it,
love for those who long for it,
laughter for those who cry out for it.

and when all this seems impossible,
and the ugliness of despair threatens,
remember that we walk in the beauty of One
who offers peace and strength.

Together we pray. Amen.


Many, many thanks to the wonderful, thoughtful and encouraging people I’ve had the pleasure of “chatting with” these past few weeks of the #wholemama link-up.  I don’t read their stuff before I write mine because I’d become discouraged by their genius and never write again.  But judging from what I’ve read these past few weeks, I can assure you that they have said amazing and thoughtful things on the topic of beauty.  It will be worth your time to check out a few–I’m looking forward to a quiet evening with my laptop and their words of wisdom.

We Have Some Time but Not a Lot: On Celebration

We Have Some Time but Not a Lot: On Celebration

“Come look!  There are, like, 20 balloons out today!”

I walk to the window and peer out through the tired faux-wood blinds.  The hot air balloons are hovering on the horizon, a chaotic bouquet against the morning sky.  There are perhaps ten balloons but the sight is impressive nonetheless so I have the good grace not to correct the kids’ counting or their grammar.

I love this about our new town.  Not just the daily flight of hot air balloons but the way it is always a cause for celebration.  We moved here twenty months ago, which should be enough to get settled in.  It is, after all, enough to get a child through a grade and a half of school, plus two summers.  It’s long enough to discover the best grocery store, a favorite coffee shop and great new friends.  It is not quite long enough to stop missing the best things from our old town but perhaps that’s the danger of living deeply–there is always something to be missed when change comes.

hot air balloons

The balloons never get old though.  Neighbors post pictures on Instagram and Facebook.  My daughter’s reading class once took a ten minute break to watch a balloon land in the field near their school.  There is something enthralling about them and for a few brief seconds I can really believe that they are sailing to Oz.

There are also the prairie dogs.  They, too, are a daily cause for celebration.  We watch them scamper and play and listen to their chirped warnings.  On a walk last winter we laughed at how their tails move when they chirp.  Up and down, up and down, in rhythm to their fast paced barks.  We joke that their tails are levers and this is really what makes the sound.

There was the time when, in the dead of a dreary, windy February, when we were in the midst of that general unease and anxiety that February brings on, I told my husband to “consider the prairie dogs.”  He is not a church person but he still understood the biblical reference and we laughed.  He has suggested that we make a poster that says, “Consider the prairie dogs,” to hang on the blank wall by our sliding glass door.  Like this, maybe?

Consider the prairie dogs

After reading I’m in Charge of Celebrations last spring, my daughter started keeping her own celebration diary.  It includes things like seeing a double rainbow, watching a bunny come into the yard and feeding the squirrels at a rest area in Utah.  (My list of celebrations would include the fact that the rest area gave out squirrel food, because people who turn a desert rest stop into a party are good people.)

School is starting next week and I am a bit depressed about this.  My work time will improve greatly–right now I’m barely hanging in there.  And it will be easier to carve out the space that I crave.  Plus the house might stay clean for longer than 5 minutes.  I am trying to remind myself of these things because really, I would happily extend summer by another 6 or 7 months.

Feeding ground squirrels in Utah

I suppose that’s always the challenge: change hovers right around the edges of all of life’s beautiful moments.  A couple weeks ago we got the diagnoses that our cat has stomach cancer.  This was not a surprise because she is old and anyone could see she is not healthy.  Still, it is one thing to know something inside and another to hear it said out loud.  After two tearful conversations on the phone with the vet, we decided not to pursue any treatment.

I explained it to my daughter this way, “Papoo is really sick.  We have some time but not a lot so we’re just going to love her the best we can.”  Of course, then we both cried and spent the afternoon cuddling with the cat.  This pretty much sums up life itself, doesn’t it?  It is always joy mingled with loss, celebration mingled with grief.

In The Upright Thinkers, Leonard Mlodinow talks briefly about the invention of time-keeping.  Until the invention of the clock in the 1330’s, a day was measured in twelve equal intervals of daylight.  This meant that an “hour” was longer or shorter depending on the season.  Rather than having more hours of daylight in the summer, as we do now, there was more daylight in an hour.

Sundial

I felt envious of these people.  By all indications, they didn’t have much need for a standard measure of time.  This hints at a life unfettered by appointments and errands and conference calls with people across the globe.  I wondered if they found it easier to live in the present, a skill most of us lack in a world where clocks are king.

But of course time still moved on, kids still grew up, seasons still changed and animals still died.  This is what unfettered joy does for us, though.  It allows us to lengthen the amount of time in our hours.  It gives more weight to the celebrations of life than the griefs, until those milliseconds of laughter overtake the minutes of sadness.

This morning it was still dark when I woke up, a sure sign that fall is on its way.  Change is hovering, again.  But celebrations are hovering too.  They are floating there on the horizon, bursts of bright joy just waiting to be noticed.  Time itself, offering not a way to count the hours but a way to measure the minutes.  Depth, not length.  And us just pressing ahead, loving the best we can.

Making a goat noise


I’m writing again today with the other #wholemama folks who are thinking about celebration.  I jumped in late to this because that’s how summer goes here but it’s been such a joy to read and think with other readers, writers and thinkers.  Don’t forget to take a look!

wholemama

When Life Has Become Boring (a #wholemama post)

When Life Has Become Boring (a #wholemama post)

The boy was eight years old. He was one of those precocious types. “Smart as a whip,” as the older members of the congregation used to say. “Full of energy,” they would also say. These things were both true.

In addition to being smart and full of energy, he had a certain capacity for getting his way. “Tell it again,” he would demand every Sunday morning and because I believed in following the children’s interests and cultivating their passions, I would oblige.

“One day, Moses was on the mountain when he saw a burning bush. He went closer and heard a voice telling him to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground.”

“We should be taking off our shoes in church.” The boy announced one day. He announced it as certainly as he announced anything else. “This is a holy place.”

Well, of course church seems like a holy place to a child, especially perhaps a child in this church, where the congregants were fiercely proud of their historic church building and talked often about what a special place it was. It is not really unusual for a child to take the holiness of church as a given fact. Children typically know these things about church:

  •                 God loves them and is with them always.
  •                 The stories in the Bible are important
  •                 The answer to any question during the children’s sermon is “Jesus.”

And, of course, the church is a holy place.

So what was surprising about this little person’s observation wasn’t that he believed the church was holy, it was that he demanded that we act in a way that was in line with our beliefs. His logic could be mapped out with the precision of an algebraic equation. If church is holy and the Bible is true then we ought to be taking off our shoes. It checks out.

Bush

As adults, we also have a series of beliefs. For many of us, they are things like this:

  •                 Make the most of each moment.
  •                 The simple life is best.
  •                 Love each other.
  •                 God is with us always.
  •                 There is holiness in the ordinary.

These are good beliefs. We don’t have any trouble believing them, really.  Our challenge is acting in line with them. We have the tendency to forget these things in our normal, everyday life. We forget them because, after living the same story over and over again, we stop finding it interesting. No one ever wakes up and says, “Oh yes! Tell me the story again of how I get to get up and go to work!” Instead, we are more prone to finding that in their familiarity our stories have become boring.

This is normal and human and probably rooted in some practicality.  We can’t wake up every single morning and naively ponder the magic of the washing machine, nothing would ever get done. But sometimes we go the other way. We become bored with our sameness, our ordinary routines. We become listless and even depressed. We feel irrelevant to this great big world, as though our ordinariness is synonymous with meaninglessness.

Last week I stumbled on a little memory garden tucked in the corner of a local park. There was a small spiral walkway made up of bricks. Each brick held the name of a person, assumedly someone being honored with a donation to the project. In the center was a large brick bearing this quote by Anna Quindlan:

Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittery mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to live, really live…to love the journey, not the destination.

I took a picture of it because I love Anna Quindlan and also I desperately need this reminder. The truth is, I am reeling from the realization that I am fairly ordinary. In our young adult years when everything is ahead of us and dreams are cheap, we rest our identity in the fact that we will change the world. Then we grow and realize that following our dreams means making trade-offs.   It is suddenly much, much harder than we once thought it would be.

This is why we must constantly be reminding ourselves of the holy bits of treasure buried in familiar pathways. Otherwise, this would be the end. We would look at the long, gray walk ahead of us and become discouraged from believing that we matter at all. We would sit down and cry, convinced we’ll never reach the end (however we’re measuring that) and simply stop trying.

Path

Friends, I’m not really telling you anything you don’t know. I’m simply saying that if, like me, you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer ordinariness of your life that you take a few minutes to recalculate. I’m saying that sometimes, we don’t need anything outside of the life we already have; we just need to balance the equation. If God is with us and there is holiness in the ordinary, then you matter just as you are—boring, mundane, you, right now, walking whatever boring, mundane path is ahead of you. And if this is all true, then the solution to ordinariness isn’t to walk faster, it’s to walk slower. As slowly, perhaps, as if you’d taken off your shoes and were wandering around barefoot.


I’m writing again this week with the #wholemama group.  There is so much good stuff here.  And while I’m truly terrible at managing my social media profiles, I’ll keep posting a few of my favorites to my Facebook page so if you don’t make it to Esther’s site, you can check out a curated version there.

wholemama