Recording the Mundane

I started Bullet Journaling this summer. We’re not too busy and I don’t have so many things to keep track of, but I was drawn to the concept of combining journaling, remembering, lists and notes, as well as a calendar.

img_1545At the beginning, I would record what happened each day – bike rides, naps, what we had for dinner, a baby born, the weather. As I fell into the daily patterned, I modified the notes but I enjoyed taking time throughout the day to pause and record the mundane.

I fell off track in August, for whatever reason. My journal became a place for notes and lists as we prepared for camping and a road trip but the daily notes seemed repetitive: Swim, playdate, grill, hot weather, repeat.

I was flipping through the early pages the other day and stopped, smiling at our summer. We kept it intentionally low-key and it was fun looking through our new favorite books, our outings with friends, our small successes. It reminded me of the importance of those small, quotidian rhythms. Ones that I don’t want to forget as the girls get older and our schedule will probably get busier.

Maybe it’s ok that I stopped recording. Maybe we needed to “unplug,” not only from electronics but from recording in general. Maybe I needed to stop and let the laziness of August take over in order to refresh for the school year. Maybe that’s just part of life’s seasons.

So, even though it’s Tuesday; Even though I’d like to start on Monday or the first, I’m starting again to record. Recording this last week of summer, recording these moments of Elle’s small steps and increase in vocabulary, recording Bea’s silly and deep observations. I’m remembering to pause in this moment and remember the small, the seemingly insignificant, the moments that make our days.

It’s something that people have said again and again and books have been written, but I’m reminded – again – that this season and these moments are fleeting and I’ll want to remember the small things.

How do you record the daily mundane? Do you get into the August slump or does the warm weather rejuvenate you?

When Life is More Than a Number

A couple years ago, Goodreads introduced a “Reading Challenge” feature. You could set a reading goal and it would track your achievement. The first year, I set a goal of 52 books and exceeded it by 30. I had never tracked my reading before and the overachiever in me was thrilled. Look! I’m such an amazing reader!!

unnamed-1Last year, I again set the goal of 52 books and just baaaaarely made it. Like, I powered through a couple books in December, since my type-A personality was cringing at the thought of not making my goal.

This year, I again set the goal of 52 books. Goodreads tells me I’m falling behind. We’re over halfway through the year, and I’m just at the halfway mark for my goal.

At first, I got a bit stressed about this. If only the girls were a bit more independent. I’d totally reach my goal!

The moment that thought crossed my mind, I laughed. When I was teaching, I read for book club and perhaps a few more books but I would come home tired and ready to veg. When Bea was Elle’s age, I was knee-deep in newborness and figuring out life as a mom and I doubt I had much reading time. And now with two? Life is all the crazier and I have to be all the more intentional about taking time to do what I love.

Perhaps I need to take the challenge off of Goodreads. If reading becomes a goal or just a number, what’s the fun of that? Am I reading to learn, to get lost in a story, or to make sure I’ve checked that number?

I guess my Goodreads goal is quite indicative of my life right now. What was easy pre-kids became tougher with Bea but I learned to make it manageable. What was manageable with just one became even more challenging with two, but I’m learning.

I’m learning to stop and set aside numbers and simply watch and be present with these fast-growing girls.

I’m learning to take time for me and not to feel guilty about that.

I’m learning again about the ebb and flow of seasons. That school will start and we’ll be in a whole new phase and rhythm.

I know that in a blink, Elle will be in school. Perhaps I’ll go back to full-time work. Perhaps life will again be challenging and reading will be squeezed into the margins. And then the girls will get older and even more independent and reading will look different. And I’ll wonder, was the reading goal the most important thing?

I’m learning to prioritize books. Now, I judge books before I read them, knowing that I only have a small amount of time. In some ways, that’s been cool – I’ve read more 5-star books than normal, probably because I’m looking for books I know will resonate with me.

unnamed-1 (1)As a family we’re learning. We take short, fun hikes rather than intense long ones. One day, we’ll be able to increase the mileage but for now, we’re teaching a love of nature and the outdoors, an eagerness to get up and get on the trail. At the same time, Frank is hiking a 45-mile trek right now and all Bea can dream about is the day she’ll be able to join him on a “marathon hike.”

We’re learning that, while our goals look different, it’s so important to model our loves for the girls. If I got discouraged and just didn’t read; If Frank stopped doing days-long hikes until it was easier, would our girls want to emulate that?

We’re still figuring it out, and it’s still hard not to define myself with a number, but I’m learning the balance and fleeting nature of these seasons. One day, I’ll have all the time in the world to read and set reading goals, but I have a feeling those numbers won’t even matter by then.

What is something that you prioritize? How has that changed as life’s seasons change? Have you ever gotten caught up with a number?

Shoo Me, Daddy!

Mom? I think you’re probably pretty jealous of me and Elle.

Oh? Why?

Because Daddy doesn’t shoo you when he gets home. He only shoos me and Elle.

unnamed-1One of our steadfast rituals when Frank gets home from work is that he must, no matter what, lift the girls high into the air. On the sound of the garage door opening, Bea runs down the hall yelling, Shoo me first! Shoo me first!! Elle is fast on her heals, squealing and insisting that her turn isn’t far behind.

There is something incomparable to daddy’s throws into the air. The feeling that you know you’ll be caught; that you aren’t really too far out of the reach of his hands.

Perhaps Frank can’t actually shoo me into the air, but of course there are so many ways he supports and lifts me up – by encouraging my gifts, but listening to my processing, by working hard so that I get to experience these fast, little years with the girls.

And, what Bea doesn’t see is that I shoo Frank, too. It makes me think about our perception of God – how so many people struggle (and rightfully so) with the image of God the Father. That some human fathers have so failed to shoo their children that the idea of a benevolent Creator is too much to comprehend.

As I watch Frank shoo our girls, both physically as well as emotionally and spiritually, I am grateful that their image of a Father-God will be one of lifting them high, of catching them, of not letting go.

Do you remember being lifted by your dad? What is your view of a Father-God?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “lift.”

I Am Home; This Is Where I Belong

I borrowed my mom’s car the other day and, because I don’t like messing with the radio, listened to the Christian radio station on my errands. I don’t mind the upbeat music normally and this trip was no different.

Until the song Where I Belong by Building 429 came on. As I listened to the lyrics, I became sadder and sadder. This is how they view our precious life on this earth?!

The chorus goes:

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

When Bea is mad, she often yells, Fine!! I don’t want to live here anymore!!!! Usually at this stage in our interaction, I’m more than ready to help her find an alternative living situation. In reality, I tell her that we love her and that her home is here, with us. No matter how frustrating life feels.

There seems to be a lot of fear these days – fear of others taking things from us: our jobs, our guns, our religion. We want protection.

In this fight or flight mentality of fear, it’s easy to want to run away. Since Canada isn’t really an option, heaven seems as good a choice as any.

Life is hard. I don’t want to engage. This isn’t my home anyway – I’m just waiting for heaven!

I want to sit down with Building 426 and ask for more. Surely they aren’t really asking us to disconnect.

I do believe we’re home. This earth was created for us and as long as we humans view it only as a pit stop, we’ll treat it as such: A means to an end. Rather than an incredible place for us to live and thrive, we’re treating this amazing creation as no more than a concrete picnic bench on a long highway.

I do believe this is where we belong. I believe that when we recognize our place in creation, it’s hard to ignore injustice or truly believe that we aren’t meant to care right now, in this time and place.

When the lyrics say Take this world and give me Jesus, who are we giving the world to? Take it from whom? I believe God gave us this world – how we care for it and cultivate it and respect it is a reflection of our values. I don’t think Jesus wants us to give this world “back.” I think he came to redeem and restore this earth.

It makes me sad to think of people listening and humming along to this catchy song. Perhaps they aren’t picking it apart now, but the next time a politician doesn’t reflect their own worldview or a news story laments the systemic injustices in our world and country, a go-to response is that we don’t really belong here anyway. Why care too much?

I think we need to care more! I think we really need to look at the commandments that Jesus gave – to love our neighbor; to live in an upside-down mentality where the poor are the greatest and the last are first; to recognize that kingdom living isn’t measured by the normal standards of health and wealth but by a completely different set of standards, where people care for strangers and outcasts.

As Christians, rather than seeing the brokenness of the world and, like a preschooler yelling, Fine! I don’t want to live here anymore! perhaps we need to actually consider what it means to walk like Jesus, to live a life of justice and mercy and kindness. To be an active part of redemption and restoration rather than hoping that God somehow magically takes care of things or gives the world back, as if there’s a benevolent return policy on faulty civilizations.

Especially during this election season, my hope and prayer is that we remember that our home is here. We are not passive players, nor are we called to outsource our beliefs to government leaders. It is our job to live out the kingdom, to recognize our own part in changing this world.

What’s your view of heaven? Do you think it’s a place we go after death or is it a restoration of this current earth? Does this shape the way you interact with this earth?

If you’re wondering about the place of heaven, I’d recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope, followed closely by C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra.

Living a Content Life

Frank is getting ready to go on a multi-day hike in one of the most beautiful places I know, the Grand Tetons. And, I’m feeling jealousy creep in as the preparations build and the day creeps closer. I want a whole week off of parenting!! When’s it my turn?!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re also definitely in the August part of summertime: Playdates are sparser; School is starting soon; The days feel long and creativity levels are low. Bea is asking when school is starting again more than I’m thinking it – we’re ready for routine and autonomy.

We talked about tiredness and time “off.” Frank made the mistake of wondering if I’d be happier working rather than staying home. I AM HAPPY!!!! I fumed. Can’t you tell?!!!

A friend posted about the distinction between being happy and being content. Beyond the happy moments that make up our days and weeks and years, there is a contentedness that permeates our lives. Even in the midst of wishing for more “me” time or more family time, even in the moments when I’m tired and not particularly happy, I am content.

There’s a deeper feeling, a deeper fulfillment in these years that I’m thankful for. If I relied only on happiness, I think we would have given up. It’s not that we’re not happy, but that word leaves so much to be desired.

So, while I’m not necessarily looking forward to parenting alone; while I’m ready for “my turn” at adventure, I’m content in knowing Frank will come home refreshed. I’m excited for a road trip up to a spot that has so much meaning for our family. And I’m happy that we are on this journey together.

What does the word “happy” mean to you? Are you, by nature, a happy person or does the word content resonate more with you?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “happy.”

Hidden Treasures

One year, when I was an early teenager, we were visiting my grandparents. I remember pulling a box down from a high closest shelf with my grandma and opening its treasures. It was filled with memorabilia from her high school days at a boarding school back east. Assembly bulletins, a calendar filled with squares reading “lunch with Stinky” and other girlfriend dates. We looked through these treasures and she told stories about her friends and schooldays.

Years later, we helped pack up my grandparent’s house – the one they’d lived in for over 40 years. I’m sure that box was thrown out in the shuffle. There came a point in the packing and donating and garage sale-ing that so many things were deemed memorable-but-not-keepable. After 40 years, downsizing can be brutal.

Just a couple years ago, we packed up our own small house and moved into a bigger one, as we anticipated growing our family. I came across a box of journals, but mixed in were also day planners – those books from the days before relying on my calendar app. I sat down and flipped through it: “lunch with Cece;” “Baroque & Rococo paper due;” “day trip to Reims” filled the pages of my years in Paris. “Lunch with Frank” repeated over and over from my planner during our early days of dating.

I was tempted to throw out my old planners – it had been years since I’d last looked through them – but the memories came back fresh and I imagined one day pulling this box out for a granddaughter and reminiscing over these hidden memories again.

Are you a saver? Do you like to keep bits of memorabilia or do you purge and remain minimalist?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “hidden.”

The Privilege of Getting Away

Last week, we made the trek up to the Black Hills of South Dakota for our triennial family reunion. Especially since becoming a parent, I look forward to these gatherings. Kids running wild in the field, cousins reconnecting as though no time has passed, reminiscing and retelling the same stories, laughing, crying, singing hymns, watching any kid in range and resting in the knowledge that others are doing the same for my kids.

This year’s was the first time a member of the founding generation – my grandmother and her siblings – was unable to attend. My parents’ generation became the oldest; We are now at the age of our parents when these gathering began; Our kids are making memories and forming relationships that will create a foundation for adulthood.

Each reunion is held in a different location, so every three years we explore a new part of the country. Each area offers things we wish we could recreate each time and each area has things we gladly leave behind.

This year, our location was at Custer State Park and one of my favorite perks was the spotty network coverage. I had taken social media off my phone beforehand, since I wanted to be fully present, even in the downtimes. But, it wasn’t really necessary. My phone stayed in my room most of the time. I think I only took about five pictures the entire week. Staying present, living in the moment, keeping memories in my mind not on Instagram was easy and refreshing.

It also meant that I turned off the news. The reunion began with the aftermath of the Dallas police shooting, but we were already out of range by the time the ones in Baton Rouge occurred. Taking a week off seemed like a respite in the midst of story after story of anger and tragedy and loss.

IMG_1317Frank and I took an ATV ride along some old mining trails in the hills and, though it was far from a quiet hike that I’m used to, being in the country and away from people reminded me of the vastness of our world. When life seems crowded and loud, I lose sight of the fact that we have so many thousands of miles of space here in America. Space where I can be without seeing anyone. Space to remember the grandness of our earth – that we humans are still quite small in this grand scheme. Space to see my first “Trump 2016” sign in someone’s front yard and to remember the difference of living in a secluded rural area instead of a crowded urban one.

As we bounced along the trail, I also recognized the privilege I have to disconnect. I am able to turn off my phone, to drive seven hours for a change of scenery, to go into the hills. My life back home carried on; I returned to everything clean and organized and normal.

For so many, the privilege to disconnect is not available. They cannot turn off and have a loved one reappear. They cannot go into the hills and return to a society that suddenly accepts the color of their skin. They cannot change their lives by changing the scenery.

I needed that week off. A week to focus on family and relationships and to marvel at the fact that generations of people gather to play together, to sing hymns together, and to support each other. I also needed to stop in the midst and remember those who do not have this gift.

By stopping to recognize, it made my time away sweeter. It made me more grateful for the privilege I have. It made me stop and pray and acknowledge those who do not have this. And it made me reflect and long for a time when getting away for a week doesn’t mean coming back to more news of anger and tragedy and loss but to a time when we can reconcile and redeem our relationships.

How do you disconnect best? Do you find you need to take intentional breaks from the news and social media?