Living with purpose

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.


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.

When it has been a year: 5 things I learned in 2017

I love me a good fresh start just like any self-respecting Type A, INFJ, enneagram 3 and a New Year is prime time to do some serious navel gazing and where are we going from here pondering. Also a softie at heart I revel in all the look back and reflect type exercises too. Our family has a yearly tradition of writing our top ten lists on New Year's Eve. I personally love finding the good, the blessings, the wonder, and I find it connecting to hear what stood out for the people I love too. Not a shock to anyone who knows me even a tiny bit but 2017 kicked my behind. 2017 kicked my husband's behind. 2017 was a year we will never forget, even when we wish we could. During the top ten family list making, several events popped up that I had already forgotten about - a bunch of situations that in a normal year would have stood out for their 'badness'. But this year they disappeared into the cobwebs of my brain crowded out by much bigger situations. Despite all the hard things, I remember 2017 almost exactly like this:

2017 was a good year. It was a year I saw my children thrive and continue to believe in love and goodness. It was a year we celebrated Aaron's 40th birthday and our 19th anniversary and surprise! we still love and like each other very much, and to me that is no small thing. It was a year I got to jump off more things into water with the ones I love and what else could I ask for, after all that was my hope. It was a year I found Jesus my constant companion in the midst of not doing, in the midst of having to be helped, in the midst of fear, anxiety and sickness. It was a year I came to fully believe that even if the worst happened, I trusted God for good. It was a year I started to reclaim who I am at my core and how I want to live that out.

2017 was a year I survived, a fact I am damn proud of and looking back there are some things a survival year has taught me, recorded here so just like our annual top ten lists, I don't forget.

1. You can do hard things (even when you don't want to).  This phrase is a bit cliche these days but it is also true. We don't know what we are made of until we have to make it through something hard we haven't chosen and then trust me, you can do more than you ever guessed about yourself. This doesn't mean we always jump up and down with glee over these 'opportunities' for growth, or feel immediate gratitude for being drawn closer to what really matters through suffering. What it does mean is that even if we wouldn't wish this situation on our worst enemy and we are perfectly happy to remain shallow if we could pass this by, when push comes to shove, by relying on God and those who love us we can do this really hard thing.

2. Healing takes longer than you think it should. I could write a whole book about this but if you have been through a trauma like potentially loosing health, life, safety, a loved one, it takes time to heal. Physically yes, but also emotionally and mentally. See a counselor, pray, go to yoga, spend time in nature, move your body - it's all steps in the right direction but it is still slower going than you would like it to be. Most other people won't understand this and will expect you to be 'normal' pretty ASAP. Hold onto your healing path anyway.

3. It is okay just to survive. There is a movement in the cancer online world to call oneself a cancer 'thriver'. I swear I wanted to sucker punch someone each and every time I read that. Look, this shit is hard and getting through something that will kill you if left untreated is not in most people's 'thrive' zone. There will be other times you can thrive, other times you can do all the things you see other people not currently going through crises doing. Just getting through cancer or another traumatic season - I'm giving you a gold star all the way.

4. It is okay to say no. Most people I know fall into two categories. The first are people who are okay with taking help and these people also seem to be better at self-nurturing, boundaries, and saying no. The second is people who are not so great at taking help, self-nurturing, boundaries, and saying no. I was in the second category and am trying to slowly move myself more into the first category. I had to say no a lot this year, I took a lot of help this year, I set boundaries and placed a lot of self-imposed limits and sometimes it was really hard. No, scratch that out, each and every time it was really hard. But...BUT I did make some breakthroughs and learned I cannot be all things to all people and even if people might feel mad or sad or excluded I can give empathy, but it is not my job to do their emotional work or meet each and every persons’ needs. (This itself was several counselling sessions of material.) I remind myself of this often because it is still my primal instinct to change what will be best for myself and my family to make everyone else like me, and to try and do all the things because that used to be easy for me. If you are in the second category like me, know the world will keep on turning even if you say no, set boundaries, take help. It's uncomfortable at first (or maybe forever) but there is more room for authenticity and wholeheartedness which in my opinion is a decent trade off.

5. Everyone needs more grace. Including myself. Having spent much of this year in survival mode has made me act in ways I haven't always felt proud of. In survival mode things often feel scarce, like there isn't enough to go around and I am at my absolute worst when I am operating from that place. I have said and done things or not done things I wish 100x over I could undo. I couldn't do everything I actually wanted to do (not just felt I should) because I didn't always have the energy to. I try to use this as a guidepost for myself when other people do things I think are douchy too. Most likely they are feeling scarce because of a hard thing or a past hard thing just like I am. So I keep reminding myself, more grace, grace all around.

I'd love to hear what you learned in 2017 too.