Actively Loving My Neighbors

We sat around two tables, ten women, a teacher, and me. Five women wore a hijab or some sort of covering. Four women were from Mexico. Two women relied on their friends for translation. We sat in a mobile classroom with a broken air conditioner, though during the morning class the heat wasn’t all that noticeable. We played a few name games, I helped a woman fill out a registration form, and after the coffee break we practiced leaving a voice message to let the teacher know if there was an absence or tardy.

school-375976_960_720Earlier this year, after the travel ban was enacted, I looked for ways to tangibly show my immigrant neighbors that they were welcome and a necessary part of our community. I reached out to a few different organizations but they were flooded with volunteers and yet had a lack of refugees who needed help. An acquaintance advised me to wait – that school would provide a more organic opportunity to help.

When I saw the poster at the Welcome Open House for Family Literacy, I immediately put my name down as a tutor. As a teacher, it was so hard to watch parents whose primary language wasn’t English try to decipher homework, forms, and school expectations. I knew that helping in the classroom was important, but if I could help parents help in their kids classrooms, that seemed exponentially more important.

Part of this program is English acquisition – practicing daily conversations and situations. Part of it is school specific – filling out forms, doing homework, understanding the new math curriculum. Part of it is teaching the parents how to volunteer in the classroom and give back to the school. It’s teaching them the cultural expectations and norms of American public education.

Our little class has just started meeting and already I’m excited for this year ahead. I look forward to the opportunity to get to know these other moms, not as student-teacher but as fellow moms at the school. I’m here to help with English but my goal is also to listen to their stories and to simply walk alongside them as we all navigate this world of elementary school together.

It’s such a small thing, this once a week commitment but it has already changed the way I read the news and world events. While I’m not out protesting or calling my representative’s office, and while we don’t have political signs in our front yard, I am making a political statement of welcome with my presence. I am actively loving my neighbor and our little circle of women gives me hope.

What are small ways you respond to world events? How do you actively love your neighbors?

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Full Capacity is Quieter Than I Expected

I have the honor of sharing some thoughts at SheLoves Magazine about my “One Word” for the year: Capacity. At just about a third of the way through 2017, I’m finding that I may have misunderstood my word and I’m learning to pause and recalibrate my expectations. Head over to the SheLoves to read the whole article, but here’s an excerpt:

Annie-Rim-Quieter-Full-Capacity3We’re in the midst of a chaotic season in our home. With two young girls, life is always running at full speed. My husband is an accountant and the weeks leading up to the April tax deadline are extra busy and stressful. The other day, I pulled out some frozen chili for dinner. While I was defrosting it I noticed it seemed a bit chunkier than normal chili but the frenetic pace of early-evening solo parenting pushed the thought to the back of my mind. When my husband, Frank, came home from work and reheated his portion he asked, “Did you add sour cream and Frito chips to the beef stew?”

It wasn’t a huge mistake, but it’s one that totally encapsulates this season of life. I am running at full capacity, often to the detriment of the details that make up the big picture. Did we have a hot meal for dinner? Yes. Big picture! Was it the meal I had planned? No.

When I claimed “capacity” as my one word for 2017, I felt pretty good about it. My word for 2016 was “enough” and I felt that this would be a good follow-up. I had spent a year calming my expectations, sitting at Jesus’ feet, channeling my inner Mary rather than my dominant Martha. But now, I was ready to fill up that space! Martha has a place in my life, too, and I was eager to be open to opportunity and live to my fullest capacity. A third of the way through this year, I’m realizing how deeply I have misunderstood both of my guiding words.

Enough isn’t a pass to sit back and let life pile up around me, knowing that I am truly enough. And capacity doesn’t mean filling my time to the brink, even if it’s full of really good things.

Recently, I was reading Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong. At the beginning she says, “The opposite of scarcity is not abundance; the opposite of scarcity is simply enough.” Read the rest over at SheLoves and please join in the conversation!

If you picked One Word for 2017, how is your journey going? What have you discovered, four months into the year?

Remembering to Ride My Tricycle

Elle just turned 18-months and her little personality has taken off. She’s trying to form complete sentences and even told me her first story the other day. It’s so amazing to watch her follow in Bea’s footsteps, trying so hard to be just like her big sister.

Most of the time, Bea takes the time to help and guide Elle. In the bathtub, I overhear Bea slowly talking to Elle, Elle! This is an elephant. Can you say el-e-phant? Elle! This is a towel. Can you say tow-el? Elle! Do you believe in Jesus? Say, I believe in Jesus! Elle!

Other times, Bea is frustrated when her little sister draws on an art project or knocks down a lego creation. And for as much as Elle emulates her big sister, she wants to do things on her own. She wants to be just like Bea but without the time and effort and years it took for Bea to learn her 4-year-old achievements.

img_3613When we ride bikes, Elle loves sitting on Bea’s two-wheeler, wrapping her feet around the seat, and having me run through the cul-de-sac. She makes vrrrooooommm!! noises and loves going fast. Bea lets her do this for a time, but soon wants her own bike to speed around. Elle is not content with her little balance trike – she wants to skip ahead to what the big kids are riding.

My one word for this year is Capacity. I’ve alluded to different decisions we’ve already made that seem to have fulfilled this word. I want to say, Look! I’m doing it! Just two months into the year and I’ve succeeded!

But this past week has been a bit chaotic and not at all productive. Part of that is because we took a much-needed, long-overdue trip to visit family. It was good cousin-filled chaos and the productivity of seeing aging grandmothers. But I was easily lost in my to-do list. I wanted to get into a rhythm, to fill my now free moments with other really good things.

I was recently reminded of the need for rest. That without taking time to pause, I won’t be refreshed and ready for whatever the next adventure may be. I had fallen into a habit of checking off the boxes, completing my word instead of viewing it as a slow, unfolding process.

Who knows where capacity will take me this year? Perhaps it will push me beyond my comforts. Perhaps it will push me to do less, to open up my capacity for rest. My guess is that I’ve only begun to scrape the surface of what this year holds for me and our family.

Rather than trying to skip ahead and ignore the necessary steps along the way, I’m learning to stop and recognize these steps as developmental. I need to learn to ride that little balance trike before I can tackle a two-wheeler.

How do you stop to remember to take baby steps? Are you methodical by nature or do you like to skip ahead?

Yes, I Am Able

I’ve never dyed my hair before and, as my 35th birthday approached, I felt the itch to spice things up a bit. I’m embracing my identity more and more and I felt the need to commemorate that with something totally outside of my normal look. Something fun and funky but still maturely thirty. So, we went with purple and green highlights. They are subtle and fun and everything I hoped for in a mid-winter, mid-decade change of pace.

I was talking with a friend about the -5s. Those half-decade birthdays that sometimes seem bigger than entering into the decade itself. Looking back on my other half-decade birthdays I can definitely see the pattern.

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At 15, I first watched Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting and my interests took focus and my life changed as I pursued art history. At 25, after deciding I was destined to be single, I started applying for teaching jobs overseas. And then met Frank… Now, at 35, I feel on the edge of something. Of course, not even a week after this birthday, I can’t predict how it will impact my course but I am excited for what is around the corner.

My word, Capacity, has already shown itself to be a true vision for 2017. I’ve already made choices about how my time is divided, about the commitments I’m able to make, about what our family dynamic looks like in this particular phase. I’m on a journey with some incredible women to write our life’s mission statements. Our meetings have been profound and stirring. I feel that I’m preparing myself for something significant.

Because my birthday is in January, I usually hold off on the typical beginning-of-the-year goals and wait until my birthday to reflect and make that list. This year, my goals are much more vague and simultaneously more ambitious. I feel like the coming year will lay a foundation for bigger things – ones that I can’t even imagine yet.

If the decade between 25 and 35 was about forming my adult identity – one of teacher and wife and mother – then my hopes for the decade between 35 and 45 will be years of refinement. Of knowing who I am and feeling equipped and empowered in that knowledge to make big choices. I want to live these coming years with open hands and with an attitude of yes, I am able.

I am able to stay at home and raise these two feisty, thoughtful, compassionate daughters. I am able to be part of groups and teams and organizations that are changing the world. I am able to give my time and energy to my community in new ways.

I am embracing my ability to use this time wisely. This time of staying home but of more independence. I don’t want to waste these years, not just from a parenting perspective but from a self-care point of view. How can I use this time to really be intentional about my roles, both currently and in the future? How can I use this time to prepare for whatever our next chapter holds?

What birthdays seemed “bigger” to you – the -0’s or -5’s? How are you embracing the decade you’re in?

Holding Onto My Story

A friend and I met the other day to see Jackie. After the credits rolled, we curled up in the reclining chairs and chatted until the theater started filling up again for the next show. This friend is someone I wish I could see more regularly, but when our schedules align and we’re able to connect, I leave feeling full, refreshed, and heard.

img_0578We talked a lot about identity. We’re both in our mid-thirties, both raising young kids, both still grappling with that elusive balance of being strong influences for our kids and holding this season with open hands and remembering that it is fleeting.

One part of our discussion really stuck with me. We wondered how, as moms, we hold on to parts of our story and identity that aren’t as significant anymore. How do we honor that part of our journey while recognizing that it may not play a big part in how we live our daily lives?

When I first moved to Denver after living in Paris and spending months in Kathmandu, I struggled a lot with how to describe moving back home. I was home, yes, but I had done so much more! Years passed and I struggled even more – college didn’t matter as much; people don’t really care which school I attended, and yet it felt leaving those years out of my story put me in a category of never leaving home. (Which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just not my story.)

When Bea was born and I settled into the role of stay-at-home mom, I was happy with that identity. But then, when a job opportunity arose a year later, I excitedly joined a team that perfectly encompassed my passions of innovative education practices with getting people into museums and experiencing the history of art. The other perk of that job is that when people asked if I “just stayed home” with the girls, I could say that I also had a really amazing part-time job.

I don’t think this search for identity is unique to stay-at-home moms. We were talking with friends about their parents’ recent retirement and how there has been a bit of a search for what that means. What do you say at dinner parties? What are the expectations of living a full retired life?

My years in Paris don’t really come up anymore. And, beyond a few ways that we choose to expose the girls do different things, I don’t think it really plays an active role in my life at the moment. But, as my friend said, it is a significant part of my story. It developed my world view and my views on faith. It made me the mom I am.

In this year of Capacity, I think part of it is becoming confident in my identity. How can I own what I do? Be proud of both the amazing parts of my journey and the mundane? How can I model for my girls that our identity is multi-faceted and that each part is worthy?

What part of your story is significant to you but is something your current community may not know about? How do you blend your journeys and lessons?

One Word: Capacity

Last weekend, some plans changed and Frank and I found ourselves already dressed and packed for snowshoeing with a babysitter booked for the day. After the smallest of seconds of wondering if we should cancel, we decided to continue on. Instead of the planned hike, we decided to revisit the trail where we first met, nine years ago.

capacityThe weather was perfect: Snow enough to need snowshoes, cobalt blue sky that makes Colorado famous, sunshine to keep us warm, and a trail that isn’t too popular so we had plenty of time as the only two on the path.

We talked about goals and hopes and dreams and wishes. We wondered what this next year would bring. It will be one of big changes for our family. Hopefully, we’ll see the end of a long business plan come to fruition; Bea will start kindergarten; Elle is becoming more active and articulate; I am still seeking a way to blend mothering and teaching and writing and volunteering.

Last year, my One Word was Enough. I centered my choices and decisions on the fact that I am the right woman for the roles I’ve been given. I am enough of a mom for these two particular girls; I am enough of a wife and partner for Frank; I am enough of a blogger (though I would love to figure out a way to write more often!); I am enough of a teacher (though I’m learning to draw clear boundaries around my work and life); I am enough of a reader (even though I missed my goal last year).

This year, the word that kept coming to mind as I thought of an extension of enough was Capacity. We are finding our groove as a family of four. I’ve been working and volunteering long enough that I feel I have a fairly good understanding of the time commitment both expected and that I’m willing to commit.

I know there are some commitments and dreams I have that I have the capacity to spend more time cultivating. I know that other enjoyable, life-giving areas already have my maximum time and energy. My hope is that I make space to discern which areas really could have more of my time and which areas are realistic, or even could use less.

Knowing the way this whole “one word” challenge goes, I wonder how capacity will show up unexpectedly. I have goals and ideas, but I’ve learned that this word often takes on a life of its own; that I am surprised at the ways in which it helps me grow and learn throughout the year.

What is your One Word for 2017? How do you maximize your time and energy?

Check out OneWord365 for word ideas and to find others with your same word.

Living in Kairos

We had a long day yesterday. Or, rather a long evening. In hindsight, I guess I could pinpoint some buildup, but something switched at dinner and our pleasant family time unravelled to wild imaginative games which made bedtime a time of struggle rather than rest.

IMG_9696It’s those moments of parenting which seem so, so long and which seem to zap my energy faster than what I’d imagine running a marathon would be like. (I’m no runner, but I’ve watched people cross the finish line. I think I wear their expression every night around 5:00…)

In A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle reminds me of the two words for time in Greek: chronos: measurable, linear, clock-driven time and kairos: immeasurable time that encompasses life – time at the dinner table, in prayer, with babies.

L’Engle says,

I sit in the rocking chair with a baby in my arms, and I am in both kairos and chronos. In chronos I may be nothing more than some cybernetic salad on the bottom left-hand corner of a check; or my social-security number; or my passport number. In kairos I am known by name: Madeleine.

The baby doesn’t know about chronos yet. (p 245)

I am up early this morning after this rough night. I just nursed Elle back to sleep and, rather than trying for one more hour of my own, I come downstairs, sit across from Frank and find time for something that makes me happy, for something that reminds me of my name.

How do you live in the balance between chronos and kairos?

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