Unsettled

My current season of life can be described as unsettled. And I don’t like it. Not one bit. I don’t like that my aging body is not cooperating with my ever-youthful mind. That there are pains where there shouldn’t be that linger longer than they used to. That unsettles me. I feel the weight of responsibility for people that I have very little control over and I feel unsettled. Recent decisions that I’ve made have me second guessing the direction of my life. This unsettles me. When I stop and think about how rapidly time is screaming past, my breath catches. And I feel unsettled. I wish I knew if I’m supposed to sit with this antsy, unbalanced feeling for a time. Is there a lesson to be learned in the waiting? A close friend of mine has recently learned the value in resting. Is that the answer? If so, that unsettles me.

What my heart seems to be yearning for is unsettling too. I yearn for a simpler life. A life of “less”. Not only a life with less material things but a life with less agendas, less platforms, less people striving for the spotlight. Less pressure, less time wasted on comparison, on scrolling through social media, on feeling like I’m missing out because I’m not doing something “huge” with my life. Less worries about “what ifs” or “if nots”. Less information, less input, less rush. How do I make that simpler life become a reality? I wish it were as easy as Nike says it is.  But I know myself. It isn’t.  And that’s unsettling.

 

 

Too Much Stuff

via Daily Prompt: Minimal

Minimal – once a word that seemed to define my life negatively is now something I find myself striving for.

Growing up in a household with a single mother, we had “minimal” resources.  Clothing, food, Christmas, birthdays were all “minimal”.  Extremely minimal.

Because of this, as an adult, it became more about abundance.  Christmas and birthdays were over the top for my kids.  Life became about stuff stuff and more stuff.  “Minimal” was not even in my vocabulary.

Now as I enter mid-life, “minimal” has a strong appeal to me.   As I reflect back on all of the money that was spent on stuff, I long for a do-over.  Stuff that was donated, discarded or just forgotten.  Clothing that I just had to have that I found buried in my closest with the store tags still on.  Shoes that were only worn twice.  Knickknacks that collected dust and were eventually boxed up.  Shot glass and decorative plate collections that my children will be throwing away after I’m gone.  So much stuff.  So much waste.

Recently I’ve been weeding through my stuff, trying to simplify my life.  It’s not easy.  There is much I want to keep for various reasons.  It’s definitely an ongoing process.  But as I release things, I’ve noticed that I seem to be able to breathe a little easier.  As I clear shelves and counters, drawers and closets, stress seems to lift, stress that I wasn’t even aware I was dealing with.   These open spaces that are being created are giving me a peace I didn’t realize I was craving.  I will enjoy resting in this peace for a bit before I tackle the offsite storage unit.   5d460ed78992a28f0ea9d7a6b7841f91

 “There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” ~    Jackie French Koller

 “That which you hold holds you.” ~ Tom Robbins

Reflecting

Another year gone.  In a blink.  Seriously – where did 2016 go? As I head into 2017 (which sounds completely crazy to me) a few thoughts are rattling in this old brain of mine.

Time most definitely accelerates as you get older.  When I was 15, summer vacation seemed endless.  Christmas break had long days of unending possibilities.  Now I have such an urgency to slow down these seasons.   The days can just breeze past.  Soon the fresh cut smell of June grass transitions into the crisp rustle of November leaves and 6 months have passed without a breath or a pause of enjoyment.  I’ve realized I need to be more intentional about engaging in the mundane days of my life.

Relationships matter.  I believe God created us as relational beings.  We need each other.  A simple exercise that I’ve done for the past few years is the “One Word” challenge. (Basically, you take some time to pray, (or meditate, if you’re not a believer) journal, etc. and see what word is revealed to you.    My word for 2016 was “relationship”.   I had been living my life at one speed – hurried – for so many years and that word made me stop and take stock.   I wasn’t engaging in my life. I needed to slow down and cultivate those relationships that were important to me.  Was I perfect in this last year?  Nope.  But I have been decidedly more purposed about investing in relationships that are important in my life.  This has meant letting go of some, which can be sad.  But we only have so much emotional capacity and I believe my life is richer when I invest my energy in a few true, genuine, deeper friendships than 20 surface relationships.

I have a good life.   It might not be a perfect life but it’s pretty great.  I don’t always remember that.  I have my health, a full belly, a warm place to sleep, Jesus and lots and lots of love.  Actually that does sound pretty perfect to me.

Self-control.  This is my word for 2017.  So many possibilities with this one, right?  The obvious ones:  finances – healthy eating – exercise.   But other, less apparent things come to mind.  What I say “yes” to.  What thoughts I allow myself to think.  What words I speak.  Making time for spiritual disciplines that will help me learn and grow.  Kind of excited to see this year play out.

One last reflection and then I move forward.  I want to live a joy-filled life, regardless of circumstances.  This will be a focus in 2017.  Finding more joy in the journey.  Because in the end, the journey is our life.  Not summer “vacation”, not Christmas “break”.  But the individual, humdrum, commonplace days that string together to make up this amazing, joyous, whirlwind, heart-breaking, too-short, love-filled, mind-blowing, crazy-great thing called life.

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Death and Life

Life and Death. Bookends.  The space in between a blip.  Especially so as I grow older.  I attended my aunt’s funeral last week.  She was in her mid-80’s,  joyful and fairly healthy up to the day she passed away in her sleep.  Pretty perfect, right? And yet, still so much sadness and regret.  Regardless of how long we live, it is never long enough.

That same weekend I spent the day with my grandbabies.   (How is it even possible that I’m a grandmother?  There’s that “blip” thing again.) They are different ages, pretty much stair steps.  The day consisted of ice cream mustaches, muddy feet, donuts and bees.  Mermaids and princesses, laughter, joy and some tears.  Every moment a memory in the making.  Have you ever been so overwhelmed with love and gratitude that you almost couldn’t breathe?  When I looked at those dirty feet and sweet faces, that was me.

As I watched them I thought about my Aunt Goldie.  I wondered if she had felt – even at 85 – as if it had only been a blink since she was playing in the mud, eating ice cream, holding her grandma’s hand.  My guess would be like it was yesterday.

Grab every opportunity to make a memory.  Love Big.  And don’t be afraid to get muddy.

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Flossie

Funny how quickly we can fall back into the same patterns we had as children.  How we relate to our siblings.  I was surprised by this, and a few other things, last week while visiting my sister in the ER.  It’s been tough to shake this weird feeling, so what else is there to do but write about it.   Because that’s what I do, right?   

We did not have the best childhood.  Actually it pretty much sucked.   My siblings and I have all struggled with different issues over the years, as we’ve tried to process and deal with what we were exposed to when we were younger.  Somehow I got the “strong” label and I really thought I had worked through my stuff.  Until last week.

My sister has been dealing with recent health concerns.  With some minor complications from surgery and ongoing stress issues, she found herself in the emergency room.  I stopped in to make sure she wasn’t in any immediate danger.  When I pulled back the curtain she was doubled over, a plastic tray in her hand.  The medicine they had given her had made her sick.  Not a great sight.   But in that instant, she became my baby sister again.  The one that we called “flossie”.   The tow headed, goofy, obnoxiously annoying little sister that drove me crazy with her love of animals and concern for my well-being and overwhelming, unconditional love of her family.  Even when I didn’t think some of them deserved to be loved, she did.  So irritating.

When she was finished, she laid back on the gurney, shivering almost uncontrollably.  I covered her with blankets.  She began crying, telling me about some of the recent nightmares she’s been having.  Nightmares based in reality that I won’t go into here.  I rubbed her forehead, prayed with her, and soothed her as best I could.  She eventually fell asleep – I think the Dilaudid may have helped a wee bit with this.

On my drive home the anger hit me.  What happened all those years ago is still directly impacting our lives.  The decisions that people made, the hateful things that were done and said, did they even realize the devastation that that would bring, decades later?  The impact of these things is now being felt in the next generation of our family.   I am sad for what could have been, for the life we missed out on and for the pain that continues today.

So I’ve been talking with God a lot since that night, still trying to understand and release some things.  Much has been dealt with and forgiven a long time ago.  But when I saw my little sister on that hospital bed, when I saw the grief and pain she is still dealing with from that season, my heart broke.  And I fiercely wanted to protect her.  And I am so sorry that I couldn’t those many years ago.

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Changes

Change is difficult; at least it is for me.  I have a hard time choosing a new hair color at CVS much less releasing things that have defined me for much of the past 5 years.  But as each year passes, I feel a new urgency, an urgency to invest in what will make the most impact in this world.  As a follower of Jesus, this might look different for me than it does for someone who isn’t, but I still believe we all have a desire to make the greatest impact we can before we leave this place.

The reality is we all have the same amount of time in a day – 24 hours.  In those 24 hours there are “have to dos” that can eat up much of the day.  Work, sleep, etc.   What do I do with the remaining hours?  What is most important to me and does my life live that out? After much soul searching and prayer, this is what I’ve decided:

I will be more intentional about connecting with God each day.  If my soul is thirsty, I will never be satisfied.  I am jumping off that hamster wheel.

I will allow Him to continue to refine me so I have new stories of what He’s doing in my life NOW.  Not just what He did 15 years ago.

I will schedule non-negotiable appointments on my calendar to work out.  Investing in my physical health is not selfish.  If I’m not healthy, everything else suffers.

My husband will know that he is my best friend, my biggest supporter, defender and encourager. I will give him my best time, not my leftovers.

My children will know how much I love them.  How proud I am of them.  How delighted I am by their differences, their uniqueness.  I will make sure they never ever doubt that they were loved with everything I am.

Realizing I have a limited amount of emotional energy, I will only invest in the friendships that are most important in my life.  (Jesus surrounded Himself with 12 but He only had 3 in His inner circle.)

I will use any wisdom that I’ve gotten through the circumstances of my life to help train up the next generation.  To serve, to lead, to love, to take the torch from our hands and do better than we’ve done.  I will encourage them and help them see that they are capable and that God has a plan for their lives.

I will cultivate my passion to learn new things.

I will stop comparing my life to others.

I will be nicer to myself.

I will live with unqualified Joy.

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Paint

The paint was purchased, a bright, cheery yellow.  Covering the dark teal walls with yellow was going to be a feat but I was ready.  Or at least I thought I was.  I was okay disassembling the bed and storing it in the basement.  Packing up the last remnants of boyhood was tough.  Bike locks, sock monkeys, endless Lego pieces, books, drawings of SWAT guys and police cars.  And guitar picks, so many guitar picks.  But I barreled through, trying not to think about the Christmas morning that we built the coolest Lego train on the planet.  Or how, at bedtime, I’d crawl up in his bunkbed and we would read Grover’s Bad Awful Day together.  I managed to throw away most things but boxed up some memories to keep.  And plugged away.  As I began to paint, covering the scuff marks from skateboards and gouges from guitar amps, more memories surfaced but I was okay.  I was handling it.  I really was.

Then it hit me.  As excited as I was to finally have a home office, this was no longer going to be his bedroom.  That boy “smell” that always seemed to fill his room was fading.  This season of my life was complete.  My youngest has left to start his adult life in another state.  This is the longest I’ve gone without seeing him in his entire life.  Washing the paint brushes, the tears finally came.  I get it, I really do.  We raise our children to leave us.  That’s life.  I’ll be fine.  But right now, I just need a few moments to be sad.  To just miss my boy.