Traditions are a funny thing. When you are a kid, they are a fundamental part of your family and have so much significance to a time of year. You seem to think they are things everyone does, but of course learn later your parents just make them as you grow.
When J and I got married, we talked about what we wanted to instill in our family moving forward. There are so many anniversary traditions out there — taking a trip, going out to dinner, giving traditional anniversary gifts — and we wanted to do them all! But realistically, we probably needed to choose one to manage expectations and keep things simple. So we decided our only anniversary tradition would be to get off of work and spend the day together.
Our third anniversary was this past Wednesday, and it wasn’t the best timing. I am about to be off for six work days, and the funeral for my friends’ baby required me to take off on Friday. But work is never more important than relationships, so we took the day off as planned.
We woke up late (well, 7:30 is late for us), picked up breakfast and went for a hike with Leia. Afterwards we browsed in a bookshop, dropped of Leia and went out to lunch where we ate an absurd amount of food. That’s one of the delights of having the day off during the week — luxurious lunches. We ventured over the North Carolina Museum of Art where we tried to walk off our meal. :) Then we headed home and read books on our patio. We made pizza for dinner and watched American Hustle.
Sometimes I come to this little space and the words flow freely. Thoughts form quickly and I can’t type fast enough. Other times I login, open a new post and stare at the blinking cursor, type a little bit, then decide to pick it up another day.
If you can’t tell by my radio silence lately, I’ve been in a season of the latter.
It has been a very hard few weeks. One of my best friends has been going through hell as she watches her newborn baby suffer with an unexpected heart condition. He is so sick and it was all so unexpected. How can you go through nine months of ultrasounds and doctors visits and not detect a broken heart? I went to see them the weekend after Owen was born, which was active and productive, but I sit here now feeling helpless and weary for them. It’s hard to focus on anything besides that sweet baby boy sometimes, and I feel the fear and hope on the other end of the phone whenever I talk with my friend.
In desperation to do something I created a t-shirt campaign to help pay for some of their medical expenses. If you want to help, we are selling “Team Owen” t-shirts and onesies to help raise money and show support. The campaign ends March 28th. Thank you for all of those who have supported and prayed for them so far! That little boy is a fighter and is loved by so many.
In other news, I have started to tutor an Iraqi woman once a week. It all came about so randomly and perfectly. After reading so many books on social injustice (Radical, 7, Generous Justice), I felt a tug on my heart to be a part of something here in my city. Sure I could join an organization, but I really wanted something organic and natural; actually become friends with the poor. But how in the world do you begin an authentic relationship with a population that you never come in contact with?
I asked the girls in my small group to pray for an opportunity, and literally two days later I got a message from a friend who leads an ESL program where I volunteer to bring food every few months. She asked if I would be interested in tutoring an Iraqi refugee who is pregnant and has two small children. As soon as I found out she lives a mile from where I work, I eagerly agreed. I’ve only met with her three times and already I am humbled by her kindness. She’s the nicest, friendliest and most hospitable woman I have ever met. I look forward to our English lessons every week.
Adding more to my plate has forced me to pursue a balanced life. I used to think that balance was figuring out how to evenly accomplish everything you want to and still remain zen. I am learning balance looks more like owning up to your failures and accepting that you can only do so many things well. It is choosing the best over the good.
Two things I am trying to figure out: how to run my household well and how to take care of myself. I am slightly embarrassed to admit how hard both of those things are for me.
First, how to run a household. I just have a self-sufficient guy and a low-maintenance dog, how hard is it to manage a house? It’s not like I have a brood of children to take care of. Nevertheless the thought of making dinner is crippling sometimes, and oftentimes I approach Sunday evenings with dread.
Second, taking care of myself. Is it really that important? After months of neglect, I’ve decided my answer needs to be yes. I need to put myself first sometimes. That sounds very unChristian to admit, but I am a happier and more helpful person to all the people when I exercise on a regular basis, eat healthy, and have enough time alone to decompress.
So, how do I start becoming more balanced? I’m not sure, to be honest, because I’ve become accustomed to being mediocre at all the juggling. But I know a balanced life means saying no to more things in order to say yes to the important ones. To be intentional about my time. To make Sundays count. To not go out of town at the drop of an invitation. To schedule exercise and view it as necessary not optional. To partner with J on the home. To create margin so that I can be flexible.
I am choosing to say YES to:
Working hard (then leaving work at work)
Yoga and pilates classes
Meal planning and real food
Date nights and adventures with J
Teaching ESL once a week
Reading before bed
An organized and meaningful home
Running with Leia
Co-leading a small group and cultivating relationships
Catching up with sisters/mom/friends on my way home from work
More time at my house
Blogging, whenever I want to
I am choosing to say NO to:
Watching TV shows I don’t love
Reading hundreds of blogs
Desserts during the week
Shopping out of boredom
Saying yes because of guilt or obligation
Impulse food decisions
Blogging out of pressure
One of the things on both lists is this blog. I really love this space as it offers such a great release of creative energy for me at times. Other times, though, I feel pressure to post more and better. Once upon a time, I thought I could turn this blog into a big money-maker and generate enough income for me to go full time whenever we have kids. Ha! That dream has since passed, and that’s okay.
Over the years I have been discouraged by the lack of growth and found myself constantly comparing to others who seemed to juggle blogging and life so easy. I know what kind of time and energy it takes to grow a blog, but my real job and real life (two things I genuinely love) have always gotten in the way. And whenever I’ve put too much pressure on it, the fun is gone. It goes from a hobby to another chore.
This post, for example, is waaaaay longer than recommended and easily could have been split into four different posts. It would have been shared four more times on social media and probably gotten four more times the traffic and four more times the hits and four more times the ad payments. To that I say — whatever. It is so much easier and so much more fun to just sit and write away instead of thinking about strategy and what photo could be shareable on Pinterest and what clever title I can write to make this more searchable.
I’m going back to blogging for me first, my beloved always-following readers second, new readers third, and advertisers very, very last.
In summary: it’s been a long winter. Come quickly, spring!
One of my dearest friends gave birth to a precious boy Owen on Sunday evening, and yesterday they found out he has a congenital heart disease called Shone’s Complex. It is serious and very scary, and my heart breaks for what they are all going through. Owen is undergoing his first surgery now at 11am.
Please pray for healing and a peace that transcends all understanding. Our God is great and powerful and mighty to save. You can find more updates on his Caring Bridge site.
In the last few days of 2013, J and I sat across from each other on our couch and talked about this year. We didn’t really know what 2014 would hold, which is pretty rare since we would normally have 10 things on the calendar by January 1st. (Our calendar now, however, is back to normal with most weekends for the next seven months accounted for.)
It was one of those good talks where you dream and make plans about the future loosely, knowing full well God may take us on a different journey.
We talked about the goals we had for the year. The trips we want to take. The friends we want to get together with. The family events we anticipate attending. The home projects we want to prioritize. And also the timing for when we want to start a family, and the things we want to do before then.
One of the things on my pre-baby bucket list is to go on a missions trip.
J and I have talked about going on a mission trip for the last few years, but it has never worked out with his limited vacation days. And with a few obligations on the horizon, it is unlikely he would be able to do a trip this year. During this conversation, however, he mentioned that I go on one this year by myself.
I went on a few missions trips in high school and college, and always enjoyed them. It was a chance to travel to different parts of the world and spend time with my friends. Oh, and help people. That was an fringe benefit.
I’ve changed a lot in the last ten years. God’s been doing a major work on my heart, altering my perspective on missions and grace and the poor and what my role is in all of it. It’s something I’m still navigating through, but the desire to get out of my Americanized bubble is strong.
For a long time, I thought of missions trips as something students do, not really working adults. Our church has certainly changed my attitude, with its mission-centric sermons and offering dozens of mission trips throughout the year for all generations.
Coincidentally, earlier in December I had looked at the trips that my church was organizing, but didn’t see any that resonated with me… mainly because I didn’t see a trip going to Haiti. And for some reason I really want to go to Haiti. I’m not sure why, but I have thought about Haiti a lot in the last few months.
After J suggested I go on a trip, just for kicks I pulled up the site to see what trips were on the horizon. Low and behold, there was a new trip listed going to Haiti in the spring. I started laughing. Wouldn’t that be an adventure! I emailed the leader of the trip to learn more about it. They still had room, and they needed more girls.
I made a pro/con list (naturally), prayed about it, and on our way back from Charlotte where we celebrated New Years, I decided to do it.
So, April 15th I will be heading to Haiti to help serve the people of Port au Prince. I don’t know any of the other team members and am not sure exactly what to expect, but I am so, so excited.
One of my goals this year is grow and learn more about the world we live in. I would like to be able to speak intelligently on topics other than the drama going on in the lives of my favorite TV characters. I know, a tall order.
Here’s more background from my 2014 goals:
I rarely watch the news because I find it boring, but there is so much I can learn from the rest of the world. And one day my kids will learn this “history” we call the present and I’m not going to know what they are talking about.
I decided to start small, so I added to my January goals to “listen to NPR on my way to work every day.” A simple start.
I added this goal rather begrudgingly, but surprisingly have really enjoyed listening to NPR every day. Maybe this is a sign of me getting older or how simple-minded I viewed the news before, but it wasn’t boring at all. I loved the varied stories and learned about the conflict in Syria, the upcoming Olympic games, a bombing at a restaurant in Afghanistan, how people are helping the homeless in sub-zero temperatures, and the fight for teacher’s salaries here in North Carolina.
Last week I read an article on signs of a Type A person. Aside from interrupting (that’s actually one of my pet peeves, so please tell me if I ever do it to you), all signs point to me as being very Type A.
One of these signs is fear of wasting time. I am so guilty of this. When I’m waiting in a line, I check my phone and try to multitask because God forbid I stand idly by when there’s things to get done.
But I think that’s why radio is my favorite medium of receiving news. It doesn’t really interrupt something I’m already doing — driving to work — so it’s more passive on my part. Sitting in front of the TV to watch the news is not how I want to spend my time, and navigating news websites overwhelm me. I don’t know where to begin.
The radio it is. I’m on my way to a smarter 2014.
How do you consume the news? I’ve heard a lot of people use Twitter, but I get lost in all of the status updates. Maybe I follow too many people.