Choosing to Use My Voice

Tu es tres timide, I was told yet again. Have you thought about taking acting classes? Learning French made me awkward, vulnerable in my ignorance, and timid in starting conversations. I retreated and sounded like a toddler rather than an intelligent adult. In many ways, losing my voice while trying to speak French made me insecure about my voice in other areas.

frogs-1274769_960_720It took some time, but I learned that I’m not defined by my foreign language skills. I do have thoughts and a voice and can contribute intelligently to conversations.

I’m also learning when it’s best to contribute my own voice, when it’s best to amplify the voices of others, and when it’s best to just be quiet. Not because I agree or disagree, but because it’s just not the time or place.

We’re in yet another time as a country when voices need to be heard; when we need to stop and listen; and when we need to recognize our own place in the conversation. In these moments, I recognize that my place is more often than not to listen, not to speak. To really hear the experiences of others.

Often, this means seeking out articles from a different point of view. Ideally, this means being quiet and letting my real-life friends speak. Sometimes, this means using the “hide” function on Facebook, recognizing that it’s not the time or place for debate.

I don’t feel as helpless as I did a few years ago, when I realized the privilege in choosing to speak or not. But I’m also learning that speaking is a privilege and my hope is that I use my voice to help and advocate, not to simply add to the noise.

How do you choose to use your voice? Have you ever wished you had been bolder?

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

The Sweetness of Milestones

We walked to Bea’s new school the other day to meet her kindergarten teacher. When she started preschool, I didn’t cry. I saw how ready Bea was for that new adventure and it seemed so right for our family.

IMG_5702But as we walked through the halls of this big school, as friendly teachers and staff greeted us and helped us navigate our way to the new classroom, as we stood outside and peeked in, tears pricked my eyes. I realized what a milestone kindergarten will be, this embarkment into a great world of learning and discovery and independence.

Standing in the library later with the one family we knew from preschool, we talked about how this is it. For the next six years, this place will define our time and schedule. It will define a lot of our choices and how we respond to them. It will help shape our kids into the lifelong learners we’ve been hoping for already.

I’m incredibly excited for Bea to start kindergarten. She is ready and excited. She’s the type of student that will do just fine – friendly, kind, conscientious, a rule-follower. But, as with so many transitions, there’s something a little bittersweet. Our days of exploration and discovery at home are over. Our flexible schedule and ability to have midweek adventures are being traded for a wider world. It’s all good, but there is still a little heartache at seeing how quickly time really does speed along.

Life is bittersweet, isn’t it? What was your favorite grade in school? If you’re a parent, which transition was your favorite? And, did you cry on the first day of kindergarten?

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

Life Vests Are Awkward

One of my favorite memories from our recent trip to Oahu is the moment I learned something new about Frank. I always thought he was a mountain man. He loves hiking and exploring and much of our early relationship was founded on trails through the Rockies.

IMG_5457Seeing him in the ocean, I realized he’s not just a mountain guy – he’s a nature guy. Growing up just an hour away from the New Jersey shore, Frank grew up swimming in the ocean and couldn’t wait to dive in.

Even though I grew up in California, swimming in the pacific just wasn’t part of my childhood. We’d go to the beach and play in the waves but the water was cold and the days were often foggy. My idea of a great beach experience includes a sweatshirt and a hot mug of cocoa.

One of the activities was a catamaran and snorkeling excursion. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn something new, so I waited to try out snorkeling until we were on the boat. While everyone pulled on flippers and dove into ocean to join a sea turtle feeding on the reef, I was handed an incredibly awkward life vest and told to stay near the lifeguard.

It was a humbling experience. I did not look cute or anything – I looked like an adult in a giant yellow plastic vest. I bobbed on top of the waves. I was kind of self-conscious.

But I’m so glad I tried! I saw beautiful fish. I got to see that sea turtle having a mid-morning snack. I experienced part of the world I never would have seen if I hadn’t just strapped on that vest and jumped in.

It was a reminder that I never look as graceful as I imagine but if I let that stop me, there are many experiences I’d miss out on. I’m learning to take a few more risks, life vest and all.

Have you ever had an experience that was way more awkward than you imagined? What are some risks you’ve taken lately?

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

Planning for Spontaneity

I like to think of myself as a fun! and spontaneous! person, ready for adventure or new plans at a moment’s notice. That hope is pretty much opposite of my personality. I’m a planner and organizer and when things don’t go the way I’d hope, I feel at the very least low-level stress.

IMG_4924We took a staycation the week after tax season and I had a lot of hopes for that week. We were going to create amazing family memories and totally reset our quality time after three months of a crazy schedule. Instead of hoping that Frank understood these expectations, I made a list.  It’s not exactly the definition of fun! and spontaneous! but it did help Frank know what I was expecting on our week together.

It made me think about the times with Frank or with my friends when my own expectations have gotten in the way of an experience. When I had hoped for a certain outcome that didn’t happen. Usually it’s because no one else knew I had that expectation.

Now that we’re a couple weeks into summer, I’m wondering if we need to make a list of expectations. Not a to-do list or even a summer bucket list but just a list of things we expect from our days. Do we expect to go swimming every day? Do we expect some sort of playdate or excursion or pajama day? I’m wondering if I include Bea in this list-making if our days would feel different? More summery and adventurous, rather than rushed and frustrating?

I still love the idea of fun and spontaneous days, but maybe those need to make it onto our list of expectations. Maybe a little planning allows for a lot more spontaneity.

How do you communicate your expectations about a vacation or a gathering? Are you a list-maker or more spontaneous?

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

Heaven is a Wonderful Place

We used to sing a song in Sunday school called Heaven is a Wonderful Place. The gang from Psalty the Singing Song Book would sing about a place filled with glory and grace and Jesus.

IMG_3567After college, as I read more and matured, my view of heaven shifted from a place we go to a restoration of what God has given us. A place filled with glory and grace? Isn’t that what Jesus called us to do, here and now, on this earth? Or, I love N.T. Wright’s image of a place of rest before the restoration.

My maternal grandmother died this week. She was 92 years old, missed my grandfather for the past 12 years, and was ready to see Jesus. And I’ve found that all my intellectual images of heaven leave and I hope that she is actually seeing Jesus and my grandpa and her brother and sister and friends who have gone on before her. I want her to be dancing and eating incredible foods.

Those images give me comfort and hope. But I still grapple with the idea of heaven as our only future goal. What about this earth God gave us? What does John 3:16 mean when it says,

God so loved the world

It doesn’t say God just loved humanity or God just loved Christians. It says God loved this world. It reminds me that, while I do long for heaven and restoration, I also long for restoration now. And maybe that’s what the glory of heaven is. Finally seeing that restoration.

How has your view of heaven changed as your faith has grown? What gives you comfort?

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

 

Labels that Can’t Be Taken Away

We recently toured Bea’s new school for next year. Outside a kindergarten classroom, a sign read, We are authors. We are artists. We are learners. We are kind. We are mathematicians  We are helpful. We are friends.

danbo-2105835_960_720I just wrote about claiming labels and how some labels are so hard to claim. For me, those big labels that call up people who have worked far harder than I have for them: writer, historian, activist.

I just finished reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The first part of the book is a memoir of his years in several Nazi Concentration Camps, including Auschwitz. Frankl describes an initial experience of reaching the camp, when every possession is stripped from the prisoners. For him, his most important physical item was his early manuscript on his study of logotherapy.

What Frankl learns is that those who survived found labels that cannon be taken away. They found something beyond their present circumstances to cling to. His hope of seeing his wife and unborn child again as well as the hope of rewriting his research kept him alive.

This has made me reflect on those labels that I have so much trouble with. Perhaps I need to focus on labels that hold far more truth, that can’t be taken away. Even the precious label of mom could be taken, but what is deeper than that?

Friend, loyal, loved, loving, connector. These are all labels that go far beyond anything that can be taken from me.

Our last MOPS meeting was yesterday and before it started our leader gave us a heart with beloved written on it. She had us put it over our name tags as a reminder that above all, we are beloved.

That’s a truthful label that cannot be taken.

What are some true labels you need to remember? How do you separate those labels that can be taken from those that are far deeper?

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

Parenting Without Immediate Results

The other day I felt like the Best Mom. I put aside my to-do list and focused completely on Bea. During quiet rest (which is just as much for me as for her) we read books, played an imaginative game, drank hot cocoa with her tea set, and wrote a book. It was a sweet three hours, just the two of us.

IMG_1708When Elle woke up from her nap, a switch flipped. I had assumed that all this quality time would carry over to the rest of the evening but something happened and suddenly Bea became a wild thing.

My first thought was, Well that was a waste of time! I could have just worked on my to do list and gotten the same results.

Of course, parenting isn’t a results-based practice. We can do all the “right things” and still not get the immediate results we’re hoping for. Sometimes this extremely long-term vision is tiring. I want to know right now that my kids will turn out ok; that my attempts at patience and empathy will pay off.

The immediate results that I am seeing are that I always have a little bit more. Even when I think I don’t have an ounce of patience or energy left, somehow I do. No one has ever died of playing one more game of tea party or reading one more book.

I’m reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl. In it, he talks about the need to look to the future, that without a future hope our present becomes meaningless. I’m taking those words and putting them to this journey. That even on the longest days, my hope is that these endless tea parties will make way for future friendships.

What is something you’re doing now with the future in mind? How does that long-term vision impact the way you view certain tasks now?

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