January Check-In

I’m trying to start a habit of a monthly check-in, and sharing it might just do the trick.

What worked?

  • Changing our gym membership to a less expensive gym  I no longer feel guilty for taking a long walk instead of heading to a class (even if I miss barre & yoga classes).
  • Reading more print books.
  • Getting a quick overview of the day’s news with The Skimm
  • Shopping less often and more intentionally

What didn’t work?

  • Shopping without a plan!
  • Putting off work
  • Spending too much time on my phone/on the internet in general

What do I want to refine?

  • Swapping more books and/or printed text for screen time
  • Meal Prep: determine meals and prep major ingredients at the start of the week

What do I want to do in the next month?

  • Running: get some outside runs in and increase my mileage slightly
  • Schedule a time to sort items I want to donate versus sell, and make arrangements to take the donations to a church warehouse

on more.

Sometimes I feel a little bit odd being twenty-nine and living in a house like this, in a neighborhood like this.

Let’s be honest: it’s a bit yuppy-looking.  And the houses aren’t particularly cheap (though they were much less expensive when we bought our house four years ago).

It’s quiet.

The sort of neighborhood where the only thing you might fear at night is car with the base turned up loud or the occasional rowdy teen.  The sort of neighborhood people retire to or move to when they can afford to move out of their starter home.

We have a garage, finished basement, granite, new appliances (we bought those though), almost a half acre double lot.

I have a room upstairs just for art.  A room downstairs with gorgeous built-ins that held almost half my books the day we moved in (I have a lot of books).  A fireplace.

We are incomparably blessed.


I should never have house envy based on all this.  I have everything–truly!  Yeah, the garage door needs fixing and yeah, we have that one door that won’t close right, and yeah, we’ve had to replace every single appliance and a pretty good amount of work elsewhere on this house, but still: I have everything.

This, though, is what the internet can do to you: it can make you feel you should apologize for the mess.  For the back patio that you have yet to finish pulling together.  For the camping hammock you have strung up that is comfortable if not pretty.  For the little bonus room that is mostly used for laundry because it’s next to the washer and dryer but has that nice vaulted ceiling and you feel it should be something more.


More.

It is the anthem of our world.  It calls us: more clothes! more shoes! more food! more time! more money!

I make a goal: SIMPLIFY.  Reduce.  Clear out.  Purge.

Instead of emptying my closet, this urge is funneled into fourteen checklists saved on Pinterest and scanning the internet for a new gray sweater to fill the imaginary gaps in my closet after I’ve stared at the packed shelf and racks in overwhelm.


This week, I actually did clear out my closet, and I removed the gray sweater that I liked in theory but did not suit my shape or style.  I did order the new one, along with a top to replace the one I got paint on a few months ago.

I cleared out the Christmas decorations as I packed them up.  Everything, including our tree, lights, and wreaths, now fits into three stacked plastic drawers and two bins.  The fall decorations fit neatly into the fourth drawer.

I am waiting to run out of time and steam and stop this clearing out.  I am waiting for the impulse to turn in to the Target or TJ Maxx or Michael’s I drive by on my way home from school each day to sing me that siren song of new and more.

But getting dressed for work was startling easy this week when I had twenty dresses to choose from and not fifty.  My clothes don’t all fit in the shallow drawers of my dresser, but if I folded them properly they just might.  The sentimental t-shirts will likely not turn into a quilt until summer rolls around again, and the bins of donations won’t make it out of the guest room until spring break.

That is okay.


I just finished Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner, which I got at the library partly because I knew I wanted to clear out my house and partly because I needed a kick in the pants to get myself started.  Also, the cover!

I won’t tell you about the whole book just now, but I will share this quote from chapter 28, “Call It Beauty,” with you:

“More important than pursuing minimalism, for me, is pursuing gratitude.  And I missed the mark today…not because I failed to be minimal.  I missed the mark because I failed to be grateful.”


I am never ever going to be a minimalist.  I’m just not.  But I don’t have to consume mindlessly, gather clutter and possessions bought in a momentary effort to feel better or different about myself.

It’s mostly just about thought: the burgundy dress with the beaded fireflies you thought about buying for a month to wear to your high school reunion and a few other events is worth the sixty dollars you paid.  The two tunics you got for twenty dollars each will hang in your closet for a year and you will finally set them in the bag marked “photograph & sell”  in January.  That is ok.  You can start here, learn from the past, be more mindful in the future.

And for heaven’s sake, just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it.

 

Hope

When all seems hopeless, messy, miserable, I want to shine that kind of hope with dirty hands, that keeps showing up, keeps writing, keeps teaching, loving, working.  The kind of hope that isn’t afraid to dream up a new world, that isn’t going to be sitting back and waiting for it to happen.  The kind of hope that isn’t silent wistful waiting but has feet on the ground and sleeves rolled up, hair pulled back, jeans covered in dirt, head bent over the words that are a blueprint for a different world, laying the foundation slow but sure in strings of nouns and verbs and their associates.  The kind of hope that isn’t going to be silent.

Dear You

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Dear you,

who carries everything alone

who stands tall in the face of it

who will not set down the burden that is a weight in your chest

who believes she must bear it on her own

who thinks her story is not as weighty as the others

who believes she cannot burden anyone else with her story

who is unsure of the next step,

who only knows each step is shorter and heavier than the last,

You, dear one,

are allowed to ask for help.

Love,

You.

Presence

Presence has not been an easy word to practice so far.

I have written about our current political landscape and voiced my actual beliefs.

I have had hard conversations with loved ones and I haven’t run away or compromised my beliefs to end the conflict.

I have cried.

I have taken five deep breaths when things felt out of control.

Being present means being engaged, I’ve discovered.  It means sticking around.  It means writing a letter to a family that lost a son and telling your friend that not everyone who disagrees with her is a terrible person.

It means putting the phone back in your purse and celebrating with a friend.

It means snuggling your pup and watching a movie with your husband and not doing two other things at once.

It means showing up, again and again.

It is hard.

You will discover later that it is worthwhile.

NaNoWriMo

It’s NaNoWriMo time again, and even though my life is full to bursting, I know it’ll just get busier in the coming years.

And I have a story I need to tell: my own.

So I am going to write myself bare, write it all out, hidden behind the safety of a password but still present, here, to place the words somewhere else and yet hold myself accountable.

So–look pass the password protected posts.  At the end, I might share the password.  I might not.  We’ll see.

Thank you!

broken + brave

I’ve thought about inking a cross, as Ann puts it, on the inside of my wrist for the last month or so.

I’ve inked a few things there: grace.  three little geese.  a semicolon.

But not a cross.


From the time I was baptized at age nine (or ten?) to the time I graduated high school, a solid eight or nine years, I wore a tiny, simple gold cross around my neck all day, every day.  My grandmother gave it to me after I was baptized.  She’d had it for some time, I think, had been saving it for my baptism.  I only took it off before dressing up for a dance, or before going into an ocean or lake or pool, where I feared losing it even though the clasp was strong and never once came loose.

I took it off sometime in college, or maybe a little before, when I felt my first waves of uncertainty.

Since then, I’ve felt a strange sort of confusion over the cross as a symbol.  I didn’t want to wear it because I didn’t want to be prejudged by others: classmates, professors, friends.  I didn’t want to scream that I am a Christian.  I wanted to whisper it, show it in my actions, live it out with my love.  And I didn’t want to have to answer for the church’s flaws, for hypocrisy, for the unanswerable questions that I couldn’t make sense of.  I wanted to be on neutral ground in an atmosphere that pitted science, reason, intellect against faith–a false dichotomy that, I might add, was reinforced by both secular and religious institutions.  So I still don’t wear my cross.


The necklace has become a treasured childhood memento, tucked in a zippered-shut silk envelope my parents brought back from a mission trip to China twenty-something years ago.  Sometimes I look at it, let the chain run through my fingers.  I’m not even sure I could wear it now, literally: it is tiny, a child’s necklace.  I’m surprised I could wear it as long as I did.


The cross itself was, perhaps inadvertently, used as a tool of guilt in the hands and mouths of  more than a few well-intentioned pastors and teachers and chapel speakers.  He did this for you, I remember reading.  I remember a gruesome recounting of how, exactly, crucifixion was carried out.  And while for a time that made me feel incredibly loved, that someone would go through that for me, I remember how that shifted sometime near the end of high school into feeling like a massive guilt trip.

See, at that point I only knew how to be a Christian in one very specific way: by spending every minute in church possible, by going on mission trips, by leading service projects, by writing passionate prayers and praise songs and telling everybody about God and being the perfect example of a Good Christian Girl.  But suddenly, that role wasn’t fitting on me so well, and I was hurting and confused and lost, and I felt like my doubts were shameful because, after all, he did this for you.


It took me awhile to read Ann’s book, not because it wasn’t wonderful (it’s wonderful), but because she writes in a way where you have to give it your absolute full attention.  Every line is packed full of meaning, and she performs some of the most elegant close readings of Scripture (there’s a term I haven’t used comfortably in awhile) I’ve ever seen.  And, also, this book about the broken way of the cross was breaking me open.

My relationship to the cross is changing again.  I keep hearing of it, again, without the guilt or shame attached, in the church we’ve begun attending.  The pastor said, a few weekends ago, that if I (actually, anyone in the audience) can just accept the most essential piece, just the belief in Jesus and death and resurrection, we can work out the rest, no matter where we are, no matter how tenuous and unsure.

And I thought, that’s where I am.  I only believe this one little part for sure, though I think I know the rest on some level that is pretty close to belief.  And the simple image of a little gold cross around my neck, the memory of its feel still in my fingers ten years after I tucked it away, is comforting again.