Why Do Good Things Happen?

Last year I wrote about my theology of bad things.  I’d been wrestling with some questions that the boys had been asking and trying to sift through my thoughts.  Why do bad things happen?   I thought it was the ultimate question.

But this week I find myself grappling with the opposite question and finding it even harder to pin down.

Why do good things happen?

On Sunday Isaiah nearly drowned.  He and his brother were at the pool with Jason and he slipped under without anyone noticing. Gryffin saw him on the bottom of the pool and Jason swam down and pulled him out, blue and unconscious.  A woman who had been sitting in the bleachers gave him 6 rounds of CPR and an ambulance took him to Harborview.

I was at home and got the call when they were loading him into the ambulance.  I ran to my car and, being about 10-15 blocks closer to the hospital, the ambulance ended up passing me with its lights and sirens while I was driving over the West Seattle Bridge.

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He was in the pediatric ICU overnight but then, amazingly, we were able to come home Monday afternoon.  He was given oxygen at the hospital and had X-rays and an EKG and all the bells and whistles but the end of the story is that after monitoring him closely for any signs of secondary drowning, cardiac events and neurological deficits, they declared him well enough to return home where we were instructed to keep a close eye for pneumonia and other respiratory  distress from the residual water in his lungs.

Just like that, 24 hours later, we were back home with our boy.

The Mysteries of God

We’re struggling now to process how something so monumental and ground-shaking can happen in such a short span of time.  It takes your breath away.  And it feels unbearably vulnerable to be reminded that in the space of just 2 minutes, your life could be completely obliterated.   I was at home, just making some bread and building a LEGO space rover as a surprise for the boys when I got the call from my sister-in-law.

The word grateful can’t possibly contain all that we are currently feeling.  We are grateful.  Of course we are.  Powerfully so.  And the sentiment has been echoed by all our friends and family.  We are all immensely grateful.  But the thinking tends to divide into two distinct camps.

a).  God saved his life.  Let’s give thanks.

b). Wow. So lucky.  Everything is random.  Let’s give thanks.

And this is where I’m feeling a little stuck today.

I’m not able to say that it’s all just completely random.  That doesn’t align with my understanding of a God who numbers the hairs on our head and knows when we sit and when we rise and what we will say before we say it.

But I also know two people (one in real life and one virtually) who have experienced the same thing that we experienced last Sunday but without the happy ending.   How can I hold my joy and their grief in the same hand?   How can I hold both of these things within me? I cannot shout from the rooftops, “God saved my child!” because to do so would also be saying that God did not save theirs.

And yet Jason distinctly felt that when Isaiah finally took a breath, that the breath came as a gift from God.

So I find myself back in the same place I found myself after asking why bad things happen.  Did God save Isaiah’s life?  Was it part of some grand cosmic plan?  Or was it all random chance?  I don’t know.

Can you understand the mysteries
    of God All-Powerful?
 They are higher than the heavens
    and deeper than the grave.
So what can you do
    when you know so little,
and these mysteries outreach
    the earth and the ocean?
Job 11:7-9

Why do I still get to fold his favorite sweats and watch him make bubble soup in the shower?  Why do I still get to tuck him in with his piggy and rest my hand on his chest before I go to bed to feel it rise and fall?  I don’t know.

I don’t know but I am so, so glad that I do.

The ways of God remain mysterious and I cannot begin to comprehend how it all works.  But if the breath that Isaiah took on the side of the pool was a gift, then so are they all.  Each pull of oxygen is a gift from the mysterious, triune God who sustains and upholds all life and will one day make all things new.  On Sunday we were reminded of this gift.  Thanks be to God.

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James Baldwin & the Illusion of Whiteness

I’ve been reading some James Baldwin this week and I’ve been turning over certain parts of his essay called “On Being White… And Other Lies” in my head, struck by how apropos it remains, all these years later.  Actually pretty much everything he wrote was germane both then and now.

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This particular essay is short — you can read the full piece here — but he packs in a lot to ponder.

No Such Thing as Whiteness

I read Ta Nahesi Coates‘ book Between the World & Me last year and he uses the term “people who believe themselves to be white” throughout the book.  He got the term from Baldwin and here’s a small glimpse into understanding what the two of them are talking about when they refer to us “white” folks as “people who think they are white.”

America became white – the people who, as they claim, “settled” the country became white – because of the necessity of denying the black presence, and justifying the black subjugation.  No community can be based on such a principle–or, in other words, no community can be established on so genocidal a lie.  

But What Does That Even Mean?

So many of us wrestle with what this means.  We are so far removed from this adoption of so-called whiteness that it’s hard to wrap our heads around the concept.  If you were born in the late 20th century, all you’ve ever known is that you’re white.

To understand we have to look backward.  Yes, to slavery.  Unlike other places and spaces where folks were enslaved, America created the only slave system in the world that was exclusively “racial.”

If you were a slave in, say, Barbados in the late 17th century, two things were likely:

  1. You were probably Irish or Indian working on a British plantation (though there were African slaves by this point as well).
  2. If you were in fact Irish or Indian, you could obtain your “freedom dues” and be freed.

But here in the United States it has always been different.  We created a system of perpetual hereditary slavery based solely on race.  There was no such thing as “freedom dues.”  Being Black = being a slave.  Period.  End of story.  There was no way out.

In order to do this, we had to figure out who was “not Black” so that we could control the periphery and keep a firm boundary line between what we deemed “Black” and “Not Black.”  In other words, in order to figure out “Blackness,” we had to create “Whiteness.”

Baldwin explains:

“There is, for example – at least, in principle – an Irish community: here, there, anywhere; or, more precisely, Belfast, Dublin, and Boston.  There is a German community: both sides of Berlin, Bavaria, and Yorkville. There is an Italian community: Rome, Naples, the Bank of the Holy Ghost, and Mulberry Street.  And there is a Jewish community, stretching from Jerusalem to California to New York.  There are English communities. There are French communities…. 

… but this does not describe a community.  It bears terrifying witness to what happened to everyone who got here, and paid the price of the ticket. That price was to become “white.”  No one was white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country…

White men- from Norway, for example, where they were “Norwegians” – became white by slaughtering the cattle, poisoning the wells, torching the houses, massacring Native Americans, raping black women.”

Debasing & Defining

So where do this leave us?  What am I if I am not White?  I’m not entirely sure.   I don’t think we can simply choose a different term and move along our merry way.  I think we must still bear the weight of having chosen this for ourselves.

But it is a false identity, as Baldwin points out in this final excerpt:

But this cowardice, this necessity of justifying a totally false identity and of justifying what must be called a genocidal history, has placed everyone now living into the hands of the most ignorant and powerful people the world has ever seen.  And how did they get that way? By deciding that they were white.  By opting for safety instead of life.  By persuading themselves that a black child’s life meant nothing compared with a white child’s life… By informing their children that black women, black men, and black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of black people, debased and defined themselves.

And so it begs the question: How can people who believe themselves to be White, like myself, identify in a way that is truth-filled? Unfortunately, and you may disagree, I don’t know if we can.

As Baldwin points out in the last line of his essay,

“It is a terrible paradox, but those who believed that they could control and define black people divested themselves of the power to control and define themselves.”  

That’s a bitter pill to swallow.   But I think we may just have to live with that.

Repurposing Baby Blankets

I know.  It’s been over 5 years since I last needed baby blankets.  But of all the baby items we’ve had to sort through as the boys have gotten older, the hardest for me to let go has been their swaddling blankets.  It’s one of the first things you learn as a new parent.  How to nail the swaddle.  And it becomes a contest to see if you can wrap them tight enough that their little bitty arms don’t wriggle free while they sleep.

No?  Wasn’t a contest for you?  Well, it was in our house.  It usually involved Jason swearing grunting while he tucked that blanket within an inch of its life.  And then standing back, breathless, admiring his work, and declaring “Bam! Now that’s a swaddle.”

Some of my sharpest memories from the earliest months with our boys involved those blankets.  Ours weren’t fancy by any stretch of the imagination. They came in a 3-pack from Target.  Still, I can’t part with them.   But what can you do with them after your kids grow out of them (which happens, by the way, in about 3 months, tops)?   They’re tiny.  And after the excitement of, say, having your three-year-old wrap their own baby doll (or in our case, baby pig) in the blanket, there’s not much that can be done with them besides fold them and stack them in a closet.

Heat Packs

I finally decided to make ours into heat packs.  There is almost nothing I like more in the Winter than hunkering down under the covers with a heat pack.  I was writing down the things I like about Wintertime a few weeks ago and heat packs were the first thing on my list.  Our current heat packs were looking pretty worse for wear, having survived about 4 Winters and the boys and I were fighting over who would get the big one so I decided it’s time for a fresh batch.

Here they are…

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And here are the boys back in the day…

Gryffin just up from a nap, with the blue one. Gryffin: 1, Jason: 0

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Isaiah in the 3rd blanket — the white one, which I decided wasn’t optimal for a heat pack since you can’t wash them unless you make re-moveable covers. Which in hindsight… ah well!

You can’t get an easier sewing project.   Just cut 2 pieces of the size you’d like, put the two pieces right sides together, and sew around 3 of the 4 sides.  Trim your corners if you want and turn them right side out.  Fill with however much rice you want and then turn under the final side and sew it up.

You can top-stitch the whole thing if you want but depending on how much rice you filled yours with, it can be tricky.  I top-stitched one and had to use a zipper foot to do it.  The rest, meh.  They’re good as is.

Other ideas

If you live in warmer climates and heat packs don’t sound as awesome to you as they do to us, you could make lavender pouches, a fabric banner or get crazy ambitious and cut them into scraps for a really big blanket.

The Chosen

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Completed

January 18, 2016

A novel about two American Jewish boys, Rueven & Danny– one Hasidic and one modern Orthodox– who become friends during WWII.  The story is as much about their fathers as it is about them and I learned a lot about Judaism and what it might have been like to be Jewish in America during World War II, while also reading an enjoyable story.

Quotable

“You can listen to silence, Reuven.  I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it.  It has a quality and a dimension all its own.  It talks to me sometimes.  I feel myself alive in it.  It talks.  And I can hear it…

You have to want to listen to it, and then you can hear it.  It has a strange, beautiful texture.  It doesn’t always talk. Sometimes — sometimes it cries, and you can hear the pain of the world in it.  It hurts to listen to it then.  But you have to.” 

***************

Human beings do not live forever, Reuven.  We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity.  so it may be asked what value is there to a human life.  There is so much pain in the world.  What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye? 

“…I learned a long time ago Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing.  But the eye that blinks, that is something.  A span of life is nothing.  But the man who lives that span, he is something.  He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant… A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life.  It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning… A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest.  I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.” 

***************

Also recently finished…

mudboundMudbound by Hillary Jordan
This one is a book club selection that we aren’t discussing for a few months so I’ll save my thoughts until later in the year.  I will say that I definitely recommend it.

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Blueprint Your Bestseller by Stuart Horwitz
I just finished going through this book and it has so far proved extremely helpful as I attempt to edit my novel manuscript.  I had no idea where to begin so I went through this book and dutifully completed each action step.  I honestly know nothing about the process of writing and editing a novel length piece of writing and I’m sure there are dozens of ways to go about it.  But I like a plan and a checklist and this gave me both.

Next Up?

 

Simple Bedrooms

If I was going to change careers (again), I think I might enjoy being an interior decorator.  There are few things I enjoy more than a good room redux.

The rub for me is always the cost.  Home decor can be really pricey.  And as much as I’d like to be that cool gal who nabs the unbelievably amazing vintage finds at the local thrift shop and happens across mid-century modern end tables on the side of the road, I’m just not.  I don’t have the stamina or the interest.  But I pin more photos of interiors than anything else (food is a close runner up) and I like to use the images as inspiration for being creative with the things we do have.  Ikea for the win!

Lately I’ve been drawn to these images of minimalist bedrooms.  Our bedroom isn’t cluttered or overcrowded but these photos make me want to pare things down even further.

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cactusbedroom

vaulted ceiling

ballblanket

pendant light

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Maybe I need to go back to a white bedspread.  That seems to be a common theme with this collection.  Or maybe I just need a good nap.  Those beds are calling my NAME.

Either way, if any of you happens to see one of these card catalogue things out on the roadside, holla at me.

 

Bagels & Bina Brianca

The Creative Round Up

Last week I went a little nuts with the baking/cooking.  I’m not sure what came over me but I’ve been experimenting more and more lately.   The main thing I worked on this week was bagels.   I’ve still got a ways to go before they taste as good as the ones I like from the Seattle Bagel Bakery but I’m working on it.

Bagels

I made two batches.  The first batch was just ok.  I used this recipe and the boys ate them happily but I thought they turned out pretty small and really dense.

The next day I tried this recipe with half whole wheat pastry flour & half bread flour and liked the result much better.  Still a bit on the dense side and not quite as flavorful as I’d like but much improved from the first batch.

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Haha, those aren’t the ones I made. Those are Panera Bagels.

Bina Brianca Wrap

I’ve always been interested in this wrap.  It’s supposedly worn by women the world over and can be worn in multiple ways (shawl, cardigan, poncho, head wrap, etc).  But it costs almost $50 and it’s just a slip of fabric.

Surely it should be easy enough to make your own, right?  Well, kinda.  I made one.  And it turned out ok.  But the material is actually much more important than I thought.  I used a faded red jersey sheet leftover from the boy’s room redo and it’s just a little too thick to flow well.   I think it needs some rayon in it to get the flow you need.

Ahhh well.  I wore it yesterday afternoon, poncho style, for grocery shopping and hanging around the house.  I’m not sure I’ll wear it much.  I wish I’d used the material to make my favorite palazzo pants instead.  Ah well.  Every gal needs an ill-fitting poncho, right?

Other creative attempts this week included a batch of really bad granola bars and a Meyer Lemon pound cake.

Upcoming Projects

  • Still researching a Weekend Bag and trying to find a good (free) pattern.
  • These zippered bags for cosmetics and travel
  • Croissants
  • New heat packs for around the house.

Full Circle

Quote of the Week

Exactly one year ago this week I was up at 5:45am tentatively typing the first words of a novel.  And today, wrapped in my grandma’s blanket, at 11:15am I wrote the final words of the closing chapter.

It’s just the first draft.  There is editing to do and research still to be done but one year and 80,000 words later I can report two things:

  1. It was hard.  Much harder than I thought it would be.
  2. It was thrilling.

writing2When I sat down last January, the only aspect of this undertaking I felt certain about was the title.  But the final thing I did today was go back up to the top of the document– all 249 pages of it– and change the title.

And today I read this about the next step in the process by Stephen King:

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”

Leave it to Stephen King to make editing sound so gory.  And it is a little hard to swallow, coming from someone whose writing is so verbose.  But I figure he knows what he’s talking about.  Onward to editing!

Pretzels, Peanut Butter Smoothies & Zippered Bags

The Creative Round Up

I like to make things.  Nothing huge or fancy.   Your basic DIYs, sewing, recipes, word art, etc, but I’ve been pushing so hard on my novel this past year that I’ve missed some of the more casual creating that I usually enjoy.   Jason gave me The Creative Fight by Chris Orwig for Christmas and so far it’s been a great follow up to the talk I heard here in Seattle last Fall about creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert.   I typically think about my writing when I consider my creative life but there are other ways I like to create as well.

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Here are some of the things I worked on this past week…

Pretzels

It’s Frugal January in our house.  Inspired by some friends of ours who have been observing a month of frugality in January for over 10 years, we decided to give it a go a few years ago.  We’ve been doing it ever since and each year we see added value to the practice.  For us, Frugal January means that we don’t eat out or buy anything that isn’t deemed a necessity.  Basically we just pay our bills and buy our groceries but nothing more.  Oh, and Jason goes dry for the month as well.

It’s always harder than I thought it would be but I was actually looking forward to it this year.   We make an effort to go through the food we already have in the house, learn new recipes when we’re craving donuts or a treat from the neighborhood bakery, hold off on Amazon Prime and look for free options when we want to get out of the house.  The boys realized what we were doing last year and I can’t say they were thrilled about it this year.  On New Year’s Day when we reminded them that we wouldn’t be going to the bakery on Saturday, I heard them discussing a sabotage and a hatching a plan to pool their meager resources to buy a croissant.  Hopefully they’ll see the benefit of it someday in the future.  Grit!  We’re building more grit!

Yesterday I decided to break my two year fast from cooking with my kids in the hopes of fueling their excitement about the fun things we could do this month.  And what do you know?  Two years makes a big difference!  I divided the recipe into thirds, we each made our own batch of pretzels, there was minimal angst and I only got annoyed once.  Maybe twice.  I might have told Isaiah that he wasn’t allowed to ask any more questions at one point but otherwise I’m declaring it a success.

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Cinnamon Sugar on the left & Salted on the right

We used this recipe.  We I did the baking soda bath, we skipped the egg wash because of Isaiah’s allergy, and we went 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 all purpose.  When they came out of the oven, I brushed them with butter and then sprinkled half with coarse kosher salt and half with cinnamon sugar.   From start to finish, we were eating hot pretzels in under an hour.   We dubbed them “The Rust Game Day Pretzels” even though we only knew there was a game on because of the checker at Trader Joes and we haven’t watched a football game… ever?

Peanut Butter Smoothies

I went dairy-free about 6 weeks ago.  It’s a long and pretty boring story but after over a decade of debilitating back pain, my physical therapist suggested I go without it for a few weeks, just to see.  I laughed at her.  I scoffed.  I wept at the mere thought of all the cheese and ice cream and lattes that are so near and dear to my heart but I grudgingly decided to give it a go.

Damn you, casein and whey!  I cannot believe how good I feel without you.  Tens years of back pain and countless, endless, agonizing trips to the chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, pain specialist, bowen worker (I know.  Don’t judge, I was desperate!), physiatrist, osteopath and untold amounts of money for MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds… and it was a few pesky proteins in milk?

I cannot believe that other people feel this good.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to fall but so far, I am amazed.  I didn’t even know that I felt so bad until I suddenly felt so much better.  My stomach doesn’t hurt every day, I feel like I can take a full, deep breath for maybe the first time in my entire life, my sinuses seem to be clearing, my ears no longer echo, I lost 8 pounds, and, most notable… my back is pain-free.   Pain-free, people!  I used to wake most mornings in significant discomfort.  Some days there were tears as I made my way to the shower.  Now, nothing.   Just like that.

SONY DSCI feel good enough that it’s worth giving up cappuccinos.   Wonders never cease.  So anyhow, when I’m not having dreams about pizza and cottage cheese (seriously, I have those), I’ve been looking for some new treats to replace the love of my life ice cream and other goodies.  My daily dessert used to be vanilla ice cream with some chocolate sauce and a scoop of peanut butter all mixed together.  SO GOOD.

Ah well.  So I need a peanut butter replacement.  I found this recipe and I’ve been tweaking it and working on it ever since.  It ain’t ice cream.  No doubt about that.  But it’s got peanut butter so it can’t be all bad.  I used this recipe to start and tweaked it a little.

RECIPE:

1 fresh banana
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
dash of vanilla
2 large heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter
chia seeds
10 ice cubes (my ice cubes are kind of anemic so you might not want that many)

Zippered Bags

Technically I made these before Christmas as gifts but I’ve got the stuff to make a few more and I’m readying them this week.  I wanted to learn how to sew a zipper and these bags looked like an easy entrée to the world of zippers.  I used a pattern from a book but I also used this and this to help me along the way.

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Upcoming Projects

  • Weekend Bag (this will probably take several months but I’m in the planning phases).
  • More practice with zippers.  I gave away all the bags I made for Christmas.  I’d like to make one that we can use as a first-aid kit for our camping trips or maybe a few to use as cosmetic bags for traveling.
  • Hamburger/Hot Dog buns from scratch
  • Croissants?
  • A Bina wrap from an old jersey sheet I have in my linen closet.

Unhurried

That’s going to be my word for 2016.   We were having dinner with friends on New Year’s Eve and we each tried to summarize 2015 over our tacos and salsa and the word that kept bubbling to the surface for me was busy.   2015 was busy.  We had someone (or several someones) living with us for nearly the entire year, most notably my wonderful sister-in-law and her two boys for almost 4 months.  I also set a vigorous writing schedule for myself and pushed hard on my novel for long hours amidst the usual work and family life.   All good things.   But by the time Christmas rolled around, I was pooped.  And ready to regroup.

When I started thinking through my options for resolutions last week I wanted to change everything.  All the things.  You know, just become a completely different person.  But I’ve settled down and after some further contemplation yesterday I decided on the word unhurried.

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Here’s how I’m hoping to live into that word…

One thing at a time

I’m going to do one thing at a time.  I’ve talked about this before and it seems pretty rudimentary.  But I am the queen of multitasking.  I like to work on a sewing project while watching something on Netflix while dinner simmers and I work on the next chapter or blog post in my head.  I look over my work notes and send work emails while I make the boys’ lunches and speed clean the bathroom for Cgroup while also helping with homework and setting out backpacks for morning.

This lends itself to a feeling of constant frenzy and the frenetic pace of it all does not allow me to be present for any of the aforementioned things.  I come to the end of the day and sometimes I can barely remember what came to pass in the 16 hours since last I paused to think.  My attention span seems to be dwindling as well.  When I do sit down to read, say, or write, I’m finding that after a few minutes my mind is darting to other places or I feel the urge to check my messages.

Yesterday Jason and the boys went to play frisbee golf and I had two hours to myself.  After finishing work, I decided to make some granola.  Just that.  Nothing else.  I just made granola.  It was harder than I thought!  I wanted so badly to turn on Netflix or jot some notes for work in between chopping the nuts and measuring the oats.   But I stuck with it.

Then I made some cookie dough.  I had to beat the sugar and butter for four minutes and I’ll admit that I caved and vacuumed the living room while I waited.  Eh, it’s only January 2nd.  This is going to take some practice!

“I have plenty of time.”

When I went to see Oprah last year, she talked about the mental phrases we use without realizing it.  It’s known as “self-talk.”  Studies apparently show that 80% of a woman’s self-talk is negative.  Men, I think, were closer to 50/50, if I remember right, but don’t quote me on that.

As an exercise, she had us look over a long list of possible phrases we use.  If we saw one that we regularly used, like, “I hate my body” or “I will never be able to do this,” we had to cross it out and find one to replace it.  Like, “I’m really starting to love my body,” or “I will keep trying.”  You get the idea.

Anyhow, one of the ones that stood out for me was “I don’t have enough time.”   Which is false on many levels.  I don’t actually have so much to do that I lack the time to do it.   I have plenty of time.  I might not be using it well but I have plenty of it.  We live in a scarcity culture, according to Dr. Brene Brown, where the dominant messaging is one of “not enough.”   We wake up thinking “I didn’t get enough sleep” and then we proceed through our days absorbing the ads and the billboards that tell us we aren’t rich enough, thin enough, brave enough, happy enough and it all adds up to a general feeling of “not enough.”

Feeling like I don’t have enough time is what drives me to multitask.  So 2016 will be the year for uni-tasking.  And I’ll just keep repeating “I have plenty of time” until I actually believe it.

More

Ok, so I don’t need more time but there are two things I would like more of in 2016.  Music and meditation.  I’m not a music person, per se (ok, not at all!), but I like music and I’d like to make an effort to listen to music more often.  If I’m not filling all the extra little gaps with other things, surely there is room for more music.

I’ve been waking up early for about a month now and starting my day with intentionality and prayer and it has been grounding and peace-filling and as much as I like to sleep, I’m going to try to keep at it.  However.  At that time of day I cannot close my eyes or attempt ANY form of “being still” because I fall asleep in a hot second.   Prayerful meditation needs to happen at some other juncture in the day because morning meditation = zzzzzzzzz.

I’m going to try ten minutes before lunch on the weekdays.  That’s doable.  And I don’t think I will be prone to falling asleep at that time of day.  I’ll have to get back to you on this one.

Fly fishing

I’ve been wanting to learn how to fish for a few years now.   I really think it will enhance our camping excursions.  Can’t you just see me catching us some dinner while the boys skip rocks and Jason works on slacklining.   Wouldn’t that beat all?!

My dad is a fisherman and I used to go out with him sometimes but in truth I just went for the donuts we grabbed on our way to the lake and never actually learned how to fish.  We mentioned it to my dad over Christmas and he kindly showed Jason some fly fishing basics and bequeathed us some starter poles.  So 2016 is going to be the year for learning fly fishing.  You can’t really get a more unhurried hobby than fishing, can you?

Monthly Updates

I’m going to get back on track with my monthly updates here on the blog and will add in a status report for my 2016 resolutions. I’m hoping that if I regroup and rethink on a monthly basis, I might be more likely to remain mindful of my goals.  We’ll see!

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Past New Year’s Posts

2015
2014
2013

 

(Don’t) Watch for the Light

Tomorrow is the darkest day of the year.  And coincidentally (or not) things feel pretty bleak to me right now.  I don’t need to regale you with a list of all the things going on around the world.  Or in the United States.  Or Seattle.  Or my neighborhood.  Or my family.  You’ve got your list of things weighing you down and I’ve got mine.

The Church calendar tells us it’s advent and for followers of Christ, this means that we are in a season of waiting.  We are a people in between Advents– the advent of Christ and the advent of Christ come again.  Every December, we remember the waiting and continue the waiting.  We remember the arrival of Immanuel, God-With-Us, who brought light into all this darkness and yearn still for the next arrival, when the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in this, our weary world will be complete.

Advent How-To

It is said during the advent season that we should watch for the light.  That’s the title of the advent book I’ve been reading this month.  Watch for the Light.  The phrase brings to mind a small flicker of hopeful light in an otherwise dark place.   A sea-worn sailor watchful for the morning sun to break on the horizon.   The late afternoon sunlight coming through dappled trees.   A candle in a hurricane.

In other words, a flicker of light so small that we must strain our eyes to see it.  But this year, and perhaps every year, that isn’t enough for me.  When I see mamas floating in the Aegean Sea with dead toddlers beside them, a weak flame on a windy night isn’t enough.  When I watch the video of a police officer fire 16 rounds into a 17-year-old boy in under six seconds, a glimmer in the darkness isn’t sufficient.

Winter Storm

Last week I was awakened at 5am to the sound of my 7-year-old calling my name.  I went to his room and discovered that the storm outside had woken him up and he was afraid.  I carried him into our room and settled him into the bed with me.  We laid still in the darkness as the wind whipped at the windows and the thunder boomed.  And every now and again, there was a flash of lighting so bright it lit up the entire room.

window

Watching for Something Different

That’s what I’m watching for this year.  Jesus didn’t come quietly.  He came to us through a young woman in labor.  One of the most wild and exhilarating things to behold.  I doubt it was a quiet affair.  As a birth doula who has born witness to the arrival of countless babes, I’m guessing there was blood and screaming and untold cacophony in that stable.

So it seems more suitable that we look and long for more than the weak light of a little candle.  As I behold the darkness in the world this advent season and as I sit through the darkest day of the year tomorrow, I’m longing for so much more.  I’m longing for something huge.  I’m longing for something to crash and bang into the world.  I’m looking for disruption and something that shakes the ground beneath me.  This year I’m not going to watch for the light.  I’m going to watch for the lightning.