Love Flowers Best in Openness and Freedom

Have you ever been to a place where your entire body exhales? Where you wouldn’t necessarily want to live year-round because you need a place to go and reset?

IMG_0021We were talking the other day about investing vacation homes instead of renting for a week and the discussion turned to finding a place that is incredible enough to return to again and again. Because, to invest in a vacation home means to invest time that could be spent exploring a new location.

There is one place I have gone, both when I was single and with my family, where my soul breathes. Where, upon arrival, I know that I can reset and reenergize.

Moab, Utah is about a six hour drive from Denver. It’s close enough to do in a day but as we drive from the city, over the mountains, into the canyons, and finally emerge in the red rock desert, it feels light years from our normal view.

I can’t put my finger on the exact reason I love this part of Utah so much. Maybe it’s the incredible red rock sculptures, so unique and different. Maybe it’s the dry desert air and the brilliant blue sky. Maybe it’s the fact that when we arrive, family time starts and we leave chores and “real life” behind.

Last year, we rented a condo for the week after tax season. We hiked in the mornings and swam in the afternoons. Bea scampered up the sandstone to Delicate Arch, pretending to be a mountain lion and only taking brief breaks to ride on Frank’s shoulders. We watched movies and grilled. The girls napped in the car after hiking Dead Horse Point and we spent that time slowly driving through the red canyons, dreaming about the future.

I’m reminded of what Edward Abbey says in Desert Solitaire,

“The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.”

Perhaps I’ve seen love flower best among those red rock canyons. When we dream about the future and of our family story, I can’t imagine it without repeated visits to Moab. I think I have found the one place I would visit again and again.

As we wound through those roads, girls asleep we added another goal to our ever-growing list: Save for a vacation home one day.

Do you have a place that you return to, where your soul breathes? Do you like the tradition of one place or the adventure of going somewhere new?

This post was inspired by Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, At Home in the World. It releases today and, while I haven’t yet read it, I am looking forward to her perspective on travel as a family and finding a place to put down roots. She provided this prompt in honor of her book’s birth-day: Share about a place you feel at home in the world.

The Grace of Parenting

We’re in the home stretch of tax season, which means that more mornings than not I wake up to Frank’s side of the bed empty. It may be that he has gotten up early to go into the office; more likely it’s that he came home so late he just crept upstairs to the guest room so that I wouldn’t wake up.

IMG_4122Our community, as always, has been incredible. My parents come for dinner and bedtime every Thursday so that I can continue my weekly walks with a friend. Our neighbor’s husband was gone for 10 days on a work trip so we shared meals, the girls played, and we texted support through the meltdowns.

But for all the incredible support, the girls still miss their dad. And I still miss having a partner to help me through this parenting journey. It’s nothing at all like being a single parent but these months give me a small glimpse into that world and empathy for parents who have to do this alone 24/7.

During these months, I rely heavily on the grace of parenting. Of the wonder of extra screen time and the spring weather to play outside. We live with an extra-messy playroom (because our playroom is never clean, regardless of Frank’s presence) and I allow myself to watch a movie after bedtime rather than tidy or read something more productive.

But I also rely on the sabbath that Frank’s office enforces. Each employee must take one day off every week. We bask in those 24 hours together, making sure that we soak in this family time.

On Tuesday, this will be over for another year and life will go back to normal. (Or, the new normal… Reintroduction can be tough.) I’ll wake up each morning with my husband next to me and our guest room will sit empty until actual guests need to use it.

What’s something in your life that is easier when you do it with others?

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

Feasting on Liturgy

Today I have the honor of sharing our family’s journey toward observing the church calendar over at The Mudroom. We’re not strictly liturgical but we have found a spiritual rhythm around feasting. Head over to the Mudroom to read the whole article, but here’s an excerpt:

galette-des-rois-1119699_1920-1-1When I left the Evangelical church for an Anglican one in college, it was out of proximity rather than theology. I had decided to attend university in France and there were very few English-speaking churches in Paris. As a freshman in college living abroad, I sought the ease of a community that spoke my native language.

While I started attending solely for community, I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the rituals and rhythms the Church of England offered. I grew to love passing the peace and weekly communion—taken as a community, not just in my seat. I loved the thoughtful anticipation of Advent, the Galette des Rois for Epiphany, pancakes (or crêpes) for Shrove Tuesday, and the practice Lent leading to Easter. The weekly unchanging liturgy offered comfort in a season of culture shock.

When I moved back to Colorado after those four years abroad, I looked to recreate that magical experience. But something was missing. While I found liturgy at Episcopalian and Catholic services, I had trouble connecting with community. When I would try an Evangelical church, it was easier to connect with community but I missed the liturgy.

As I continued my search, I wondered if I had connected with the actual Liturgical Church or simply a particular community at a particular season that happened to follow the church calendar.

It took some years before I found an Evangelical church that also was interested in liturgy. Read the rest over at the Mudroom!

Do you observe the church calendar? How have you found a spiritual rhythm?

Feeling Satisfied but Not Full

I love meals that begin with champagne and end with port. One of my all-time favorites was a date night at the now closed Le Bar Lyonnais in the basement of the super-fancy Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. Frank and I dressed up, even for this more casual venue, we spent hours eating beautiful food, paired each course with its correct drink, and left feeling full-but-not-stuffed.

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Champagne in Yellowstone

One of my favorite splurges is going to fancy restaurants and eating slowly for an evening. The portion sizes always leave room for the next course and I leave feeling satisfied but never over-full.

I’ve been thinking about life lately and how easy it is to stuff it full – to add activities and commitments and all the good things that build into relationships and community. It can be hard to say no when every single thing is life-giving.

But I want to be satisfied, not full. I want our days to be filled with goodness but not stressful. I can be very protective of our schedule, trying to find that balance.

I wonder if heaven is like eating at a super-fancy restaurant? We are satisfied but not full. We have enough time for all the goodness without all the stress.

What is your favorite fancy restaurant? What are ways you feel satisfied but not full?

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

Death and Taxes

After a mild February and March, typical spring weather hit – just in time for spring break. For our week off, we had drizzly mornings, warmer afternoons, and hard-to-predict forecasts which made playdates a bit difficult. But, our grass is green and our trees are blossoming.

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Clyfford Still, PH-235 Image credit: Clyfford Still Museum

When asked to describe the significance of black in his paintings, Clyfford Still said,

“Black was never a color of death or terror for me.  I think of it as warm – and generative.”

This has forever changed the way I look at black in art, in books, in life. Is there an element of death in it? Yes. (At least, from a Western perspective.) But, in order to experience life, death must be part of the equation.

Frank and I are planning our garden and deciding which veggies to plant, which perennials to try in bare areas, and which boxes should be reserved for digging play and which should be off-limits. When we dig into the soil, our hands come up black. As we watch the rain soak the earth, I see the color vibrant against the gray skies.

Easter and the end of tax season coincide this year. Sadly, this means that the last big push before the deadline will happen over Easter weekend. (No rest for the weary, or accountants…) Over the next two weeks, the little we see of Frank will become even less. Life gets harder when the end is in sight.

Not to compare dying on the cross for all of humanity’s sins to the annual tax deadline, but I wonder if this is how Jesus felt in these last weeks leading to his death. He knew what was coming; the hardest days are ahead.

There is darkness ahead and yet, against the gray there is vibrant light and hope. There is despair and an anticipation of something coming – the crowds are getting violent and yet, Jesus still makes a blind man see; still raises Lazarus from the dead.

In order for the soil to be generative, it must be black. Light brown dirt needs to be watered to dark richness. In order to see the light, we must live in the darkness.

In many ways, I’m glad that Lent falls during tax season. For our family, this season of fasting is also one of living without an integral part of our house. Whether we like it or not, our family lives in a sense of loss during this season.

Which makes Easter all the more joyful. It reminds us that life is restored, that our family will eat dinner together again, and that black soil brings new life.

How do you view the color black? In what ways do you prepare when the end is in sight?

Learning the Language of Life

Anyone who knows Bea knows that she is an incredibly verbal kid. She’s articulate and inquisitive and has an impressive vocabulary. But, she’s also 4 and so is still figuring out language. She’ll use words that are mostly correct, though a different word would probably have been a better fit. Her grammar is almost perfect, except when it’s not. It reminds me of when I try to speak French – almost but not quite.

IMG_4047One of Bea’s favorite words is expect. She uses it correctly: I was expecting eggs for breakfast! And slightly off: I am expecting to have a great day at school! Right now, it’s sweet and endearing and reminds me that she is still four.

Sometimes I feel like my own definition of words and of life can be like that. Mostly correct but slightly off. Whether it’s how we want a weekend to look like or bigger life decisions, I feel like I’m still learning the language of adulthood, trying out new ideas and values without being completely fluent.

I know that as season change and we start kindergarten next year… and then middle school… and then college… that I’ll always be learning the new language of life. That I’ll never be quite fluent. But, I suppose that’s the fun of it all, right?

I wish I was as confident to try out new words and ideas without overthinking, knowing that I’ll eventually get it right.

How do you approach new phases in life? With enthusiastic abandon or with thoughtful caution?

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

Blood Brothers Discussion

I have the honor of leading the book discussion of Elias Chacour’s Blood Brothers over at SheLoves Magazine today. This is a challenging and thought-provoking book about the conflict in Israel & Palestine. Here’s an excerpt, but click over to read the whole post and join the discussion!

Photo-2017-02-28-10-29-25-PMNaïvely, I have always viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of Jews and Muslims. The descendants of Isaac and the descendants of Ishmael. Of course, nothing is as black and white and the conflict over Israel and Palestine impacts many more people than those two particular groups.

Elias Chacour’s memoir, Blood Brothers reminds me again and again that we are bound by much more than religion, political views, and geography. If we are to truly live out the upside down, peacemaking message of Jesus, it does us no good to divide into separate categories.

Chacour brings his own story of belonging to one of those other groups to life. As a Melkite Greek Catholic, Chacour imagines that his family, who had farmed the same area of land in Galilee, may have “eaten bread and fish miraculously multiplied by Jesus’s hand” (33). That is to say, his family have been Christians since the earliest followers of Jesus and they have lived in Palestine longer.

And yet, when the Zionists began claiming the land of Palestine in the 1940’s, Chacour’s family, supporters of their Jewish neighbors and those who wanted to settle in Palestine, were forced to leave and live out their lives as refugees.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about which “side” is the right side. Our neighbors are from Israel; my husband’s family is Jewish; I was raised with the Evangelical ideal that Americans support Israeli Jews without question. And yet, my heart aches for those who were forced to leave their homes and who have lived in exile for generations. I grapple with my belief that we are called to help the refugee, to pursue peace, to turn the other cheek with the complex idea of justice and how that looks for so many opposing sides.

What Chacour reminds me, is that this particular conflict is the work of politics, not of people.

Read the rest and join the discussion over at SheLoves!