the remodeled life

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“Open during remodeling”, we have all seen the signs.

Our neighborhood grocery store has been open during its recent remodel. In fact, they are still remodeling and rearranging.

Every visit has been a new experience as aisles have been moved and exchanged in favor of newer fixtures and a promised improved layout. The grocery store’s goal is to make shopping more eye-catching and functional.

At this point, most shoppers are just plain cranky and confused. Bread should be where it has always sat and not where the condiments used to be. I try to initiate conversation in whomever cashier’s lane I land and if appropriate to other shoppers. Over the past 6 weeks, those interactions have been tense and without a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings.

However this past week, I caught the eyes of a fellow shopper as I was hunting for non-dairy yogurt options and she exclaimed, “I can’t find anything!”

I smiled back at her with a chuckle and said, “Well, it certainly is a scavenger hunt at times!”

She stopped her cart from rolling past mine and remarked, “That is a better way to look at this mess. Much better than my attitude!” I assured her I had done plenty of grumbling on both our behalf.

Life is a lot like my neighborhood Fred Meyer store’s remodeling project. Just when I knew where all my favorite brands resided and could easily traverse the landscape in ten minutes tops, it underwent a renovation without asking my permission.

Any type of remodeling can be confusing and time-consuming especially when it involves your life.

Over the last 15 months since I started a job, I wrote less on this blog but when I did write, my assumption is I spent a lot of time bemoaning the loss of my former life. (I haven’t checked, but I am certain it is a good guess.) I wandered up and down the aisles of my life and I couldn’t find anything familiar or in its place. I most definitely didn’t view those early months as a scavenger hunt.

In the last couple of months, the office building where I work has added two women and if lined up, the three of us each represent 10 to 20+ years of being outside the paid workforce. It has been a comfort to look into each other’s faces and speak the same language, voice the same fears and feel the identical weight of remodeling a life.

I have discovered a newfound community at work every bit as much as among muttering shoppers. Everyone wants to know their feelings are not unfounded or isolated.

If you are dipping your toes into a new body of water, these are my words for you today.

  • You are not alone. Look around, take your eyes off the shelves of missing items and scan your surroundings. You may discover fellow pilgrims walking the same aisle.
    You will recognize them as they bear the same glazed look you wear 🙂
  • Give yourself time. Remodeling takes time. Usually it bleeds over set deadlines. This cliché is true, take it one day at a time. There is only ever one Day One, just keep amassing days towards regaining your footing.
  • Extend yourself grace. Some days you will blow it. You will make a mistake at work. You will oversleep and the world around you can tell. You will yell at someone in anger or forget an appointment. Take a deep breath, survey the collateral damage and move on. The same bad day rarely repeats. Don’t be so concerned with doing everything well that you forget the only requirement is to live a real life not a perfect one.
  • Keep life very simple. Hold fast to home routines. Make the people within your four walls the most crucial priority. Simple meals, simple clothes, simple chores (YES), and simple schedules.
  • Ask for help. Most of us do a bang-up job of looking like we have it all together. When in reality, we are hanging on by an ever-fraying rope. It is more obvious during a crisis for others to reach out but during life-rearrangement, struggle can be unseen. I have found text messages to be my saving grace and have been blown away by the expediency of others wanting to meet my needs. When someone asks, say yes please. I repeat say yes please. Pray. Even the most basic one-sentence plea, can create an unfathomable amount of peace as your burden is placed squarely on unshakeable shoulders.
  • Cling to the habits/routines which make you who you are. If you are a runner, run. If you are a book lover, read. If creating a cake brings you joy, bake. If a noisy office drives you bonkers, find quiet. Get in the habit of asking yourself what’s missing that could benefit your days. Two areas I grieved when I started back to work were my morning routine and walking. This loss has shown up in my life in external and internal ways. It has taken me a year to realize I was frantic because those areas were absent rather than I couldn’t possibly add them to my days because I was so frantic.
  • Rest.  On Instagram, I use the hashtag #faithfulfridayrest. Friday is my day off and I have tried exceedingly hard to make it a day of rest. Rest could be sleeping in (although I am not that great at it anymore), reading a book, extending my devotional time, going to a movie alone or with a friend or spending time with a friend. This is what a rainy Friday looked like with Courtney:
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    Unexpected perk for short girls: Luxury Loungers. Translation: No dangling feet!

    I try to resist the urge to “catch up on everything” on Friday. I overt my gaze from the clutter and dog fur lingering in corners. Most of all, I relish in being what most would call being lazy. If that is what you want to call it than I am going to re-brand the word and banish it from the bad word list. I embrace being lazy. It’s perfectly fine to not be perpetually busy.
    On Sundays, our family practices a Sabbath rest. I have written about it a lot over the years. I viewed it as stopping everything related to working.
    However, last year our church spent a year focus called practicing the rhythms of grace. One of those practices was Sabbath but they called it Celebration. I was humbled to realize I had not considered taking a Sabbath as a time of celebration. An hour, a half-day, a day or longer of rest is much cause for celebration. A chance to celebrate all that God has brought us through during the week and in all the ways He has made Himself present within the course of those days. It is very easy to turn any practice into a drudgery. This year, I have been looking at rest as celebration. I now think of resting as doing my lazy dance.

Sometimes our days are laid out for us like the clothes we will wear the next day and other days, we simply cannot find any article of clothing to match.

I pray you hunt well and don’t wander around feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

Because you don’t hunt and search alone.

The remodeled life can be like a scavenger hunt of reclaiming sought after items.

But if your scavenger hunts were anything like the ones of my youth, often the person beside the open door would announce,

“I don’t have that particular item but I have this. Will this work instead?”

In the remodeled life, you get to decide what works for you and what to leave behind.

Choose well, my friends.

 

 

a year later

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On March 2nd, I celebrated one year on the job.

It’s funny how slowly and quickly a year can pass.

Time moves molasses slow when you are learning new skills and desperately want to be a master in a matter of days but at quitting time each day you lament to having nothing in common with superhero.

Times resembles a speeding bullet when your body has relinquished sleeping in.

Yet the passage of these 365+ days has shown me the value of days strung together allowing me to arrive at a different space than previously resided.

Bullet journals are all the rage right now, so let’s pretend this is a page from mine recounting a half-dozen or so takeaways from my first year on the job after a lengthy sabbatical.

  • Don’t diminish the change.
    I believe I spent roughly 3/4’s of this past year, pushing back against the fact that  a big change had occurred in my life and my family’s. I found myself saying these words, “I am only working part-time” or “20 hours a week shouldn’t make such an impact”, or further “what’s wrong with me, you would think I was working full-time?”
    With each uttered word, I diminished the change. I essentially wouldn’t give myself permission to feel weak or overwhelmed. I erroneously believed I had to be strong and in control always. And if I believed this for myself, I further translated it to mean the people in my life held the same belief. It was a sham. I am slowly recovering from this faulty belief system and the easiest way for me to test which path I am walking is to check out my neck muscles and listen to my response when asked how I am doing. My mouth and neck are the quickest indicators of whether I am holding my breath instead of letting air expand my lungs, or trying to hold control in a death-grip instead of opening my hands in acceptance.
  • Choose relationships over responsibility.
    During the first two weeks of work, I came down with a horrible cold/flu and missed two days of work. About a week and a half later, Carl’s sister suddenly passed away. We said goodbye to her Sunday afternoon and that night, I went to the store, bought everything I could think of for Carl and my children to meet with our nephew and niece and their families during Monday morning and afternoon. I went to work. I will emphasis,no one from my work said I needed to be there. I felt like I should be there. Carl and I had discussed it and we both felt since I would miss work for services, I should go. If places were traded, Carl would have been at work. We both value being responsible and dependable. But here is what I know now. I should have stayed home to be with my family. Yes I left some killer trays of food but I shouldn’t have gotten in my car and driven away. It was simply one day in a work week. That one day would not write the story of my work life but it did subtract a page from my family’s chronicle. On that Monday, I chose to elevate my work responsibility over my response to relationship. This was a mistake, I will not repeat.
  • Give yourself time and extend yourself grace.
    I kept waiting for one magical morning when I would wake up and every part of my life was put back into a perfect order. Or better yet, to spring out of bed at 6am without an alarm, full of purpose and joy. I grieved the loss of my old life and rhythm and it felt extremely painful to envision my days looking differently.
    I truly think it demanded a year of walking through the literal seasons and days to grasp the new rhythm. A year to realize I wouldn’t crumble. I missed (for the most part) being the boss of my days.  Well, at least thinking I was boss. But if I am the most candid with you, I was the most lonesome for God of my whole life. I have known wilderness seasons and sections of life I would never want to revisit, but this parcel of land was foreign like none I had ever known. Desolate.
    God was there but I missed having loads of time to just hang out in my house with Him. I experienced winter throughout spring and summer. Change is hard because it disrupts the familiar but God cannot be changed. Isn’t that good news?! The days look different but in God’s tenderness, He has helped me find Him in smaller tighter fitting spaces of time. I am grateful and a lot less lonely.
  • Learn to say no with an asterisk.
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    I stumbled upon this graphic when I was setting up to write this post. I hadn’t realized it had been nearly 2 months since my last post. It was interesting to see a year stacked in blog posts. The areas I said no with an asterisk this past year were: weekly blog writing, card writing, regular friend time, reading, making meals for others and gift giving. Saying no with an asterisk took three forms: No for now, yes but not as often and no to being on time. I said “no for now” to regular blog and card writing. Sigh. Both types of writing ignite my soul but unless I sense a persistent nudge rather than nagging guilt, it’s a no for now. The next “no” was actually “yes but not as often” for friend time, taking meals and reading. Friday is my day off. It took me a couple of months to realize the calendar square is quite small. I can’t grocery shop, see the dentist, chat over paper cups with a friend, clean my house,exercise,take a nap and finish a book
    without it seeping outside my planner. Friends have been patient and understanding and just like a boomerang initially labeled no, it has slowly returned with a yes more often. Last year was not a stellar year of book reading as I didn’t have the brain space for it. I could not read in the evenings. By year-end, reading moved to the big Yes column. Gifts are in the “no, it won’t be on time” category. I love giving gifts as well as sending cards but I have made peace with not being on time especially if mailing is involved. A gift is still a gift whenever it is received.
  • Ask for and accept help.
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    One of our neighbors delivered a card and a container of cookies to our porch during my first week of work. In every sense of the word, it was the sweetest gesture. It buoyed my weary soul. When I profusely thanked her, she reminded me of how I had made her family a meal when she had returned to work, soup when they were ALL sick and cared for them when while her husband was traveling for work. I knew this but had forgotten. The cookies were her way of saying thank you and remembrance of the early days of work. I have been carried by so many over this past year. The biggest area has been needing help with Caleb. I have sent out text messages which might as well been typed in all CAPS and had moms immediately respond with a “of course Caleb can hang out with us.” Caleb has been quick to let us know he is an extrovert among introverted parents. He needs his people. Before I could even ask, moms have given me a place for Caleb to be on no school days or late openings or school breaks. It simply makes me teary by how much this has meant to me, to us. Right now, it feels very out of balance and I have no way of repaying them. But then I remind myself how others were in the same position and I provided a soft place to land and it probably felt like a teeter totter heavily weighted on one side. Teeter totters rise and fall, thank you friends and family for lifting me towards the sky.
    And thanks for a husband who among other great things seems to always be bearing a basket of freshly laundered clothes. Blessed.

    • Make your desert island list.
      When life gets rearranged, essentials matter. What would you take if you were stranded on a deserted island?The question is designed to draw an arrow towards what is valued. I have thought about my loves and needs. I am going to change the question to: What would I take if I was working on a deserted island?
      I would take my God, my people, my books and my creativity. Actually God would be there, I wouldn’t have to ask. So my people in their various forms of family and friends because I see a big island. I envision a secluded place for my hammock where I refuel with solitude and a good book. Although, I haven’t figured out on the mainland a way to up my steps with lots of sitting at work,I think the island living would provide the right amount of fitness while I survey the beauty helping me to create.

      *****

      Cheers to the past year of change and a new year in which to sink deeper into all its many nuances. I am grateful to be on the other side of a year. Thank you for continuing to read this blog during the silences or lengthy posts. I deeply appreciate your faithfulness and friendship to no end.

when a groove is not the same as a rut

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The chief beauty about time// is that you cannot waste it in advance//
The next year, the next day, the next hours are lying ready for you,//
as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied//
a single moment in all your life//
You can turn over a new leaf every hour// if you choose.
//Arnold Bennett//

Somehow I have misplaced a full month of writing in this place.

I could easily explain the days and weeks away by saying I didn’t have time.

Getting used to the structure of work and dealing with several bouts of lingering

illness caused me to live my days in survival mode.

But in my absence, I have been reflecting on time.

Most mornings, I jump in my car and race down the freeway towards my

place of employment.

I have determined the amount of time I need to get from point a to point b.

Yet there are days when my car’s speed is quickly halted.

My steering wheel grip tightens and I glance at the clock.

Despite my best efforts, I have no control of what the lanes ahead will reveal.

A car crash may have occurred or a stalled car.

There could be a police car in view creating a renewed desire for drivers

to adhere to the rules of the road.

Often there is no other reason than many cars traveling at the same time.

No matter how much I wish, I can’t make the traffic move quicker although I would

like to believe my whispered prayers are mighty effective when the

revolutions of my wheels increase.

Mention traffic, weather or time in conversation and there is never

a shortage of opinions or more likely rolled eyes and sighs.

All three happen without our control.

Time has felt akin to traveling in a car with varying traffic patterns.

It seems no matter how I plan, time evaporates like being thrust

into a traffic jam, unable to change directions.

I wasted a lot of time talking about how little time I now had to

do all the things usually in my days.

This constant rehearsing created unease in my mind and in

my heart.

Mondays began with the renewed awareness of another week with

no time to spare.

This mindset was completely life draining and joy emptying

because I was consumed with my lack of resources.

Especially because I really like my job and the people I am

blessed to work with.

My days and time have simply been rearranged.

Then one morning, everything shifted as I was driving along.

I slammed on the brakes and the glare of red tail lights lit

up as far as I could see.

I didn’t sigh.

I didn’t look hurriedly at my clock.

I simply let my car idle

knowing it wouldn’t be motionless forever.

Forward movement resumed and I arrived

to my desk on time.

Week by week, I am learning a new groove.

15 minutes of book reading in the evening can be just

as satisfying as an hour.

Not having a week’s worth of meals planned

is not a crisis.

I begun to play around with how to have meaningful

devotions in the morning.

This had been the area which created the deepest

feelings of mourning.

I had felt very lonesome for time with my Father.

But slowly a rhythm has emerged and it has satisfied my longings.

Perhaps this week there will be a space for exercise.

And maybe my body clock will eventually awake earlier…maybe.

Hopefully the confetti thoughts wafting around my brain

will find their way to a journal or this blog from time to time.

You see a groove is not as deep as a rut.

A groove is the beginning of a pattern, a routine.

A rut is defined as a track worn by a wheel or by habitual passage.

A rut equals the deepening of a groove.

With every trip down the road, my groove

will gain depth and more familiarity.

Time may have changed dimensions but

doesn’t mean forfeited joy.

So what do you hear yourself rehearsing each week?

Is it something you fear is in short supply and has no

prospect of recovery?

Perhaps it’s time to cease clenching your

fists as you attempt to hold something you were

never designed to control.

Open wide your hands,

your heart

and your mind

and revel in how you can

best use what remains.

Take a deep breath

and let your car idle

until a new path

opens before you.

Then my friends,

travel the road

with freedom

and great joy

as you create deep

lasting ruts.

 

the crisis of the ellipsis

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During the first years of this blog,

I learned how important it was to develop my voice and style.

If you read any of the early years of posts,

my voice and style were essentially an overuse of the ellipsis.

Do you know what I mean?

An ellipsis is the series of three dots at the end

of an incomplete sentence.

I am sure I thought it was cute at the time.

Now I know it was a flashing arrow pointing

towards my incomplete thoughts or fear

of full disclosure.

Perhaps a feeble attempt to allow any reader to

finish the sentence to their liking.

Over the years, I have had occasions when

my resumé needed updating.

This exercise has proven to be an excruciating one.

No matter the accomplishments,

I only see the 10-year gap in my

work history.

It feels like an ellipsis,

(not a cute one),

an incomplete

thought and sometimes

in the midst of winter when my

spirit shrivels and sags,

it’s a persistent whisper begging

me to believe it signals

an incomplete life.

Yet I know this is far from

the truth.

The space between those dots appears

minuscule on paper,

as if nothing happened,

but in the real life of putting foot to concrete,

the expanse extends miles

past the written page.

Those little dots don’t reveal or describe

the time of sacred mothering for which

I am immensely grateful.

They don’t display the years of healing

from the toll of physically demanding

work.

So whenever a  reflexive shudder travels

from my head to spine as I survey the

gaps,

the pauses,

the sense of incompleteness,

I remember,

I am not the one who completes

my life sentence.

I am not even the author of those sentences.

I am to live fully awake in the sentence,

no matter when a comma or an ellipsis

seems to be an interruption.

Does your life consist of 

ellipsis overabundance?

Do those tiny dots seem to cast a 

large shadow over your days?

What friendship seemed close and now it is…?

Did you think you would occupy a certain role

by now?

Were you always intending to go back to school?

Do you equate incomplete with inadequate?

Could we pause for a moment today and

embrace the ellipsis in our lives?

Would we allow our minds to roam over those areas

which seem incomplete and accept them

in all their “as is” glory.

If it is a friendship,

how can we move toward it

or was it only meant for a particular season?

If it is a dream,

how can we realign it or practice

patience while we wait?

For each dot of the ellipsis,

find one reason to be grateful

for the pause.

Our lives are full of gaps

and interruptions,

embrace them as teachers

and not as harsh taskmasters.

The ellipsis simply means

your life isn’t finished yet,

and this my friends,

is a marvelous reality.

 

 

top soil

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The other night I did a bit of speed gardening.

It probably is just as effective as speed golf.

The light of day will reveal what was hastily planted in twilight.

There were plants from a school plant sale which needed

homes in pots and flower beds but all I have been able

to manage for the past few weeks has been to stick a finger

in the soil to assess their water needs.

My front yard beds looks a bit weary, neglected

until every last nail was pounded into

our new roof.

There are bare spots from plants choosing not to make an appearance.

I circled my fingers around stems and removed the dead leaves

and debris.

I loosened the soil, added top soil and watered.

I suppose looking for his wayward wife,

Carl walked through the driveway gate

and found me looking at the flower bed.

We both agreed it was vastly improved.

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Flowers with emerging blooms seemed to stand straighter.

Heavy bloomers leaned in closer to their supports.

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I am weary and suspect most of us live in a perpetual state of weariness.

This morning I read Matthew 11: 28-30 in two versions.

These verses are so familiar, they can float off our tongues without much effort.

Just like my gardening, I can speed past the words attempting to accomplish

a very necessary task.

This morning, God cleared away the dead stuff in my life through confession.

He circled my frame and added rich nutrient full soil on top of my present

earth foundation.

I stand a little taller and feel His support ever so much.

Jesus wants to carry me and my burdens not only

because He is strong but primarily because He loves me.

He encircles me with enough love to help me rest from all

my labors even those done with minimal light.

My garden will never be completed.

My walk along the various soils of this

earth has yet to be completed either.

I can assure you neither me nor my garden

will be featured in a shiny magazine.

There will be weeds, there will be flowers, there

will be death and there will be life.

Some days turning away from tasks

undone is the best and deepest kind of rest.

The best way to feel loved is by letting

someone with more able hands do the work.

Read and be reminded.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest. 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, 

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. 

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.*

  *****

Are you tired?

Worn out?

Burned out on religion?

Come to me.

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.

I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Walk with me and work with me—

watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.**

*New International Version
**The Message