Life is Mostly Boring

When I lived in Paris, none of my apartments had washing machines. So, part of my weekly routine was packing up my clothes and the lightest of my homework books and walking to the nearest laundry to spend hours watching my clothes churn. In my last apartment, I would walk through the winding streets of Montmartre, quintessential Paris, to get to the laverie. Even though the setting was romantic, the activity was pretty boring. Put in a few loads, wait, read, switch them, wait, read, pack everything up, walk home.

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Image: RyanMcGuire via Pixabay

One of my biggest pet peeves about staying home with the girls is when people tell me that they couldn’t do this – it would be too boring. I’m never really sure how to respond to this because, honestly, staying home with young kids is often boring. We do fun things but most of our day is structured. Some days, we stay home and clean the house and do laundry. Some days are filled with adventures. But even at the museum or park, unless I’m with another mom to chat with, I sit on a bench with my book, watching my kids play. Not the most exciting life.

My guess is that if we were able to track the number of minutes per day we spent on boring activities, most of our days would be pretty boring. Commuting to work, answering emails, grocery shopping. No matter where you live or how exotic the setting, life is made up of these boring details.

In her book, The Quotidian Mysteries, Kathleen Norris talks about the liturgy of the ordinary moments. She connects the monastic rhythms of prayer and repetition to our own daily chores of dishes and laundry and raising kids, challenging us to find God in those repetitive moments. She says,

Ironically, it seems that it is by the means of seemingly perfunctory daily rituals and routines that we enhance the personal relationships that nourish and sustain us.

This is a reminder to me to find the holy in these everyday moments. I’ve tried to set aside time to pray and it just never seems to work out. Something is always happening when my alarm to stop and pray dings. But when I incorporate prayer into those mundane moments, I’m much more successful. I pray for a mom I know as I wipe the counters. I pray for my girls as I give them a bath. I pray for the world as I stir our dinner. I find that when I pray for the same thing as I do the same task, a habit is formed and my boring days seem holier.

I’m not great at this rhythm. More often than not, I forget to pray altogether. But when I do remember, I realize that God has given me these boring moments for a purpose. If my time was always filled with thinking, enriching, stretching activities, I would have no space for those quiet moments of finding God.

I’m embracing this boring season. Before too long, my days will be filled with other things outside my control and I’ll look back on these long, uneventful days with longing. Not just of this season of motherhood but of this time to find a holy space while doing the mundane.

How do you find holiness in the boring moments? Do you find peace in routine or do you thrive on new and unexpected events?

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What Works for Me Might Not Work for You

One of the things I love most about our house is the semi-open concept. Each space is clearly defined but without doors. So, our formal dining room-turned playroom is open to the living room and dining area. I can see and hear the girls playing while I’m in the kitchen. It’s great. Until the clutter seeps out into the rest of the space. (Which it always does.)

IMG_8123I read a blog post once about organizing a playroom into four separate bins for each season. You pack up everything each quarter and then put the “new” toys out to keep the playroom tidy and fresh. I loved the idea of this but the project itself seemed daunting. Once it was done, I’m sure it’s a great system but I wasn’t willing to spend days on end simplifying.

My current organization system is longterm. When Elle is in kindergarten in a few years, I’ll do a gigantic purge and we’ll start from there. In the meantime, we have crafts for 5-year-olds alongside infant toys mixed up in a gigantic hand-me-down kitchen. The thing is, when we have friends with kids of other ages, all the toys are eventually played with.

It’s such a reminder that what works well for one person may not be the right fit for me. And that is great! There are areas in our life that I am a stickler about and these nonnegotiables must seem like a lot of work to others who just don’t need structure in that particular area of their own lives. We all have these things that work well or don’t; areas that we must keep neat but let other things get messy.

I was talking with my MOPS group about picking One Word to define a year. For me, it’s been helpful and such an amazing thing to look back on over the years. I love seeing the thread of God’s faithfulness defined in each word. For Frank, setting SMART goals is how he best functions. Without a measurable time limit, his goals turn into dreams that turn into unaccomplished wishes. We all function differently.

As I read articles about starting the new year well, about simplifying or adding or changing things, I remember to learn from the experiences of others without trying to replicate them exactly for myself. I’m all about refreshing old routines but I’m also learning to know myself well and trust what works best for me.

What works best for you? Are you a goals person or a one-word person? What’s that one area that you have to have clean and neat or else everything else seems chaotic?

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

Caution Leads to Independence

On New Year’s Day, we bundled up and went for an icy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our winter here has been incredibly dry with very little snow but that week of Christmas was cold. When we got to the trailhead, old snow had iced over and we carefully set out for our mile “hike” around Bear Lake.

IMG_8042Adventurous Bea ran down the trail, sliding down any incline on her stomach, penguin-style. She spun, rolled, and dove through the snowy path, shedding her coat because she had worked up so much heat.

Cautious Elle rode atop Frank’s shoulders, taking in the view. Suddenly, Frank hit an icy patch and they fell into a snow bank. I don’t know how he did it, but Frank managed to fall and catch Elle all in one motion. She came away unscathed but startled.

When Bea falls and is surprised, we’ve learned to acknowledge her accident, give her a quick hug, and get her back on the bike or trail as quickly as possible. Once she’s back to the activity, she’s usually fine. Elle takes a bit more work. She needs to snuggle in and really observe her environment again.

After the tumble, we came to a hill at the edge of the lake. Someone had built a little snowman on top and Bea began sliding down. Elle watched for a while as we invited her again and again to join the fun. Finally, Frank took her in his arms and held her in his lap as they slid down the small hill. After that one experience, all Elle wanted to do was ride down that hill in our laps.

This experience reminded me of what we call “gradual release of responsibility” in teaching. When someone is learning something new, you can’t just throw them in the deep end. You model how to do it, then you sit beside them doing it together, then you have them do it on their own knowing you are close by to support until eventually, they can do it independently.

It’s a reminder that caution leads to independence. That, until we feel safe in a situation, we can’t take risks. Until Elle felt safe and secure with us by her side, she wasn’t able to slide down that hill alone.

When I was picking lean in to define my year, a friend reminded me of the importance of leaning into our community for support. It’s a reminder that asking for help and support is what makes us stronger and allows us to take greater risks.

As I look at this year and what it holds, I know that I’ll need my community to help me along the way. In big ways and small, the comfort and rooted knowledge that my friends and family are here to support me give me courage and strength to lean into new responsibilities and adventure. They also give me the courage to lean into those small, daily tasks that would feel overwhelming without their encouragement.

I know that leaning into what God has planned would come to nothing if I didn’t lean into the people God has placed in my life to help me along this journey.

How do you depend on your community? In what ways does leaning on others for help give you the ability to take greater risks?

 

Leaning Into Ideas Rather Than Details

I just finished reading This is Not a Border: Reportage and Reflection from the Palestinian Festival of Literature, one of the most stunning collections of essays I’ve ever read. I spent over a month slowly reading the words, letting them sink in. Some days, I’d take a break. Often, I would only read one or two essays a night.

grown-up-1637302_960_720As December drew to a close, I knew I could have sped through a few more essays at a time to get one more book read before the year ended. Instead, I chose to savor each story and poem.

It’s with this mindset and intention that I’m entering 2018. After spending a few years tracking my reading goals with a set number, this year I decided to take a break. I’ve made a list of twenty books I’d like to read, and I know more will come. I want to slow down, to savor, to go deeper into these books.

It’s not that I didn’t learn a lot last year or that I rushed through my books. But sometimes, when a number is attached to a goal, I make it about the destination rather than the journey. I’m learning that some years are for measurable goals and other years are for visions and ideas.

I have a friend who creates categories she wants to learn more about each year and tailors the books she reads to those categories. Other friends do a “clear the shelf” challenge, where they stack books on a shelf in their home and try to empty it by the year’s end. (I suppose this is similar to my list…)

I was thinking about goals I have for this year and many of them are like my reading list. I have some ideas and hopes but none are conducive to creating a spreadsheet or checklist. I like that this year of lean in means leaning into the ideas rather than details. I’m not throwing out details but I’m also holding my goals a bit more loosely. I have a feeling that things are swirling around this year and I want to be open to learning rather than achieving.

In her chapter called “Composting,” Natalie Goldberg says,

“…we collect experience, and from the decomposition of thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil” (pp 18-19).

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Especially now at the start of the year, in these months when we turn the compost and wait for spring, I’m setting my goals knowing that there is some waiting to be done. I’m resting with an overarching vision of my year.

This is pretty counterintuitive for me. I like checklists and goals but it also feels peaceful and right. Maybe this year of lean in will mean big things but right now, lean in means leaning into immeasurable goals.

How do you set goals? Are you a checklist person or an ideas person? Have you ever switched up the way you track your goals?

One Word: Lean In

I wasn’t going to pick just one word to define 2018. This will be my fourth year using a single word to guide my year and I just wasn’t connecting with anything in particular. But as I reflected on this year of capacity and all the unexpected ways in which it has played out, I realized that a natural follow-up emerged.

Lean InThis year has been a year of changes for our family. I quit my job at the museum and almost immediately started volunteering as an editor with SheLoves Magazine. After years of feeling unsettled and one final year of stress, Frank made the decision to leave his job as president of a company to start his own business. Bea started full-day kindergarten. Even the best changes our stressful and this year, our family has been stretched to capacity.

As I think about 2017 and the ways in which I recognized capacity in my life – from time management to social justice to how I parent – I realized incredible opportunities rose when I said no to really good things in order to say yes to other really good things.

Some of those really good things have led to opportunities and other really good things that I never would have imagined a year ago. As the girls grow a little bit older and time looks a little bit different, I want to learn to confidently lean into those experiences and opportunities.

As I think about my own goals as well as those of our family, the phrase Lean In kept coming to mind. I want to lean into the next few months of Elle being home before starting preschool. I want to lean into social justice and opportunities to learn about peacemaking in our neighborhood and our world.  I want to lean into my community – to ask for help and guidance, to remember that life isn’t meant to be figured out alone. I want to lean into writing opportunities and experiences surrounding that. I know Frank is figuring out how best to lean into his business while also leaning into our family life.

As always, with picking one word, I know that this will take me in directions I could not possibly dream. I hesitated to pick lean in precisely because it seems riskier than my past words. But then, especially the past few years, I see how these words and intention have built on each other. I know that leaning in may take me outside my comfort zone, but I’m also realizing how incredible those risks can be.

Do you pick One Word to guide your year? How have your words changed your life?

(If you’re curious… My One Word 2014 was Grace; 2015 was Choose; 2016 was Enough, and 2017 was Capacity.)

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

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?

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?