Life in Ordinary Time

We finally took down the Christmas tree last weekend. I am a big believer in celebrating the twelve days of Christmas these past several years. A time when all our extroverted celebrating or traveling is finished and we can sit quietly by the lights of the tree, doing some yoga or reading a book. Having deep conversations about what this season means and using all the colorful light as backdrop for some New Years’s pondering.

We had the most beautiful and simple Christmas season this year. Aaron and I had enough energy to host our outdoor nativity walk for the first time in four or five years and it reminded me of everything I love about it. You plan what you hope will be a perfect, holy night to bring some restoration and then fun to everyone’s soul (including your own). The night comes and it never goes according to plan. It’s -35 or the wind is howling or you forget half of what you wanted to say. Yet somehow it still has moments of holy, brings restoration and fun.

We had our (second) annual baking day, where we make all the delicious Christmas foods altogether on a day just before Christmas. It very quickly is becoming a must do for everyone in our family, the hours of flour and butter and sugar and laughing mixing together into cherished time all together. I decided a few days before Christmas to do a Christmas card and for the first time ever a letter. So many people were praying for us and thinking about us two years ago and are always wondering how we are doing so it felt right this year to let all my extended family and friends who we don’t often see in person know. I know not everyone is a fan of the Christmas letter in these days of facebook, but I always love getting something physical in the mail, to sit and read intentionally in a moment of quiet, sharing a bit of joy and struggle, rather than during my daily scrolling session.

We had a just right Christmas and Christmas Eve, quiet, singing, candles, all the traditional books. Once a year cinnamon buns, stockings, hot tub, presents, walks in the woods, delicious food, time to rest. As fun as those years were when we had little babies and toddlers, and I will remember forever with fondness the joy of new toys and playing with wrapping paper and one piece snowsuits for sled pulls through the yard, I have to say I’m enjoying these older kid years immensely. We get to sleep till a decent hour, drink some coffee while it is still hot and do a bit of something we love too. After that we had a few really nice days with Aaron’s family.

Then before we could catch our breath we had a birthday celebration for a newly eleven year old. She got tickets to see a musical for her birthday and for that girl along with ice cream sundaes  and a few other small art supplies was a perfect day. New Years Eve we got to see some family we haven’t seen in too long and it made my heart so happy. And like the past many years on New Year’s Day we made our family top ten lists for the year.

2018 was a full, full year for our family as indicated by our lists. We had several major changes. We had (compared to the several years previously) few medical crises (multiple ER trips and a crap load of physio but frankly for us that feels like not much. Insert crying/laughing face emoji here.) For me it was a year of re-calibration, of heading towards renewal after a long period of recovery. It was a year I rediscovered my easy smile and dancing in the kitchen. And after a few years of mourning the end of baby/little kids years and rhythms found joy and gratitude in how much I love who my big kids are becoming.

For all of us there was the most amazing trip to Australia. It wasn’t perfect, but there is something about that continent that stirs up your soul, makes you pay attention, be awake. The whole place feels wild in it’s very essence. Something the adults in our family cherished (and probably the kids too) after being in survival mode for too long. We all needed a little stirring, a physical reminder of the world being holy and teaching us what it is to be alive.

Aaron resigned from his job after being with that company for 19.5 years before we left, after a long period of significant work stress. He started a new job with joy when we returned from our trip. This too brought changes for us as his new job, while fantastic, involves more travel, which means adjustments for me and the kids as well. It took me until early winter to find my groove and I can honestly say I am eagerly anticipating the year ahead.

The world moves on so quickly from a fresh start these days. Personally with everything moving slower in my heart and head, January 18th is just about the right time to have my thoughts collected on the last year and have some clarity about the next. The day we took down the Christmas tree was the First day of Ordinary time in the church calendar, which in my symbolic bones is the perfect timing.

I am fully enamored with the concept of ordinary time at this stage of life. When I look at our family’s top ten lists we made on New Years and my own reflective thoughts I’ve been mulling over these past weeks, yes some extraordinary events stand out. Trips, job changes, periods of celebration and mourning. But mostly when I think about 2018 what I remember is all of the everyday love, sacrifice, commitment and grace that made up the majority of our days. All of the hard work and discipline and rhythm and beauty added all together to allow us to watch the sunrise on a different continent and pursue our dreams, absolutely.

Also, and just as importantly, all of that adds up to give us a regular life of days we experience with fondness. They count in books read aloud, car pools driven and deep conversations around the table. The weeks flow with passions practiced, flowers grown, floors scrubbed, laughter easily had, comfort zones expanded and milestones coming. In mistakes made and apologies offered.

They accumulate in an immense gratitude of living in a season of answered prayers. A season of ordinary days in ordinary time experienced with love and joy and  peace and prayer to get us through the inevitable frustrations and conflicts and disappointments and fatigue.

Wishing the same for you in this new, gloriously ordinary year friends.

 

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Letting go and making space

Last week was the second week of advent: peace.

It seems almost laughable these days and unfathomable for myself personally last week (grumpy, unsettled, out-of-sorts.) Who do I know who would claim they are experiencing peace? Tis the season, if you are a parent of watching our kiddos do all the things. Piano recitals, Christmas concerts, season wrap ups. What a joy it is to watch these people we are blessed to parent growing into who they are. Yet also what an overfull season of everything merry happening, leaving little space for quiet and contemplation, whether you have kids or not. No room to find this thing called peace. No one I know free from personal hardship of one form or another.

Secondly, the world is currently a bit of a dumpster fire. We are becoming further polarized, finding it hard to agree on much of anything in real life. Injustice is everywhere. Humanity can seem a hard race to be a member of if one only pays attention to the headlines instead of the faces of those around us.

Online it is easy to find agreement with all the people we ‘like’ to surround ourselves with who think the same way we do. We forget we are all people. Mind, body, soul. More in common than we think when we take ourselves out of the excessive news cycle and into conversations with each other.

I sign off of most of it - not wanting to be ill informed, not wanting to fail to recognize my privilege, not wanting to turn a blind eye to injustice in the world but also finding myself useless when information is just overflowing. No more room. I find myself turning back to a smaller focus ~ connecting with the people God has called me to love and learn from; which certainly is not the whole internet, my whole acquaintance group or even everyone I am related to.

I am slowly learning to do the part I am called to do and trust it is enough to bring about this much longed after peace on earth. I am slowly learning to let go of things I’m not called to.

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Letting go. There it is again. I’ve been hearing the words ‘let go’ whispered over and over for months now. I was puzzled, let go of what? I am tired of things being rooted out and let it slide by, too exhausted to get curious. Afraid of what getting curious might ask of me.

Because apparently I need to be hit over the head with something to pay attention (or possibly made mute like Zechariah) the words ‘let go’ were physically spoken to me, to my agitated spirit during this week of (non)peace just passed. I see this as either hilarious or as a deeply moving experience depending on my mood, but mostly both. I was getting a massage from a new therapist who I had only seen once before. I asked her a question about an especially tender spot and she replied with ‘You are holding on. What would it look like to let go?’

Let go of what? (She told me a few things). And why?

Strangely I am circled back to peace. I cry on the drive home. What does peace mean anyway? Inside contentment? Time to sit and be still? Having our needs met? Absence of violence? Who can define this promised peace?

I’m wondering if peace is possibly about listening. About obedience. About trust. Could peace be letting go of whatever needs to be let go of? Unreasonable expectations. Something that has overstayed it’s welcome. Control. A toxic person. Pretending to be okay. A season of life. A dream you had for someone other than yourself. Exhaustion. Responsibilities you don’t need to take on. What other people think about you. A substance. Fear.

How can there be room for peace if there is so much being hung onto ~ let go, let go.

Advent means peace has come despite my perceptions. Peace ~ the Prince of Peace has come despite my fear, despite my eyes that have trouble seeing, despite my limited imagination. I’m letting go - making room to receive this peace he left with us. I am making space in my soul to receive the good gifts advent promises us. Trying to be like Mary and saying yes to (only) what I am asked and becoming a place for peace to abide.