Gratitude, Transitions

The Space In Between

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Photo by James Wheeler

I am currently in transition at the cusp of the second half of life. My primary focus for the past twenty years has been a 24/7 adventure of homemaking where my two children could grow, thrive, and develop into functioning adults. As my son and daughter become more autonomous, I celebrate, but simultaenously feel confused.

This time of launching is messy, marked with insecurity and periods of grief, relief, and fatigue. What do I want? Who am I? Where do I belong? What is important to me? What am I supposed to be doing? As questions spin in my head, I realize that I rely on the roles of motherhood to provide my identity. I feel anxious to be doing something, but I do not have clarity. Plus, I am tired. Where did my creativity go?

I believe a big source of this anxiety comes from a dominant message in our culture that our value comes from being productive. For example, I have heard from many women about how they feel guilty in this undefined transitional space. Some of them have told me about the messages they receive from Bible studies about how they have to serve all the time in order to be “good.” Sure, service is meaningful and honors God. However, much of the Bible also implores us to be still, wait upon the Lord, and meditate on the word.

As I talk to women going through times of transition–loss of a marriage, health issues, leaving the workplace, entering the workplace, empty nesting–I hear the same confusion.

“I can’t keep pushing myself in the same way; my body won’t let me.”

“I don’t know where I am going.”

“I don’t recognize myself in this place.”

One friend told me how she risked sharing with another woman in her church group how she found herself in this disorienting “holding pattern.” She immediately felt like something was wrong with her when the woman just stared at her blankly.

savor gratitude.blogI want to be brave and lean in to this space. This space in between is a necessary time-out, a time of reflection and reorientation. I have an impulse to get busy and keep moving as a way to stave off the anxiety of disorientation. But, I have learned the hard truth: moving without discernment is movement without meaning.

Moving without discernment is movement without meaning.

Have you ever gone hiking, and the path ended to reveal a space with several trail-heads? In this “trail-head space,” you have to pause, learn about the possibilities of each potential path, choose a path, and then move again with a sense of direction.

I am settling down internally as I imagine pulling up a rock and sitting in the middle of this trail-head marked space. As I sit, I ponder the path I just finished. I give myself time to reflect on what I learned from this leg of the journey. I allow time to grieve the parts I will leave behind.

What is important that I need to bring forward?

What parts of the journey were life giving?

What sucked the life out of me?

How can I be kinder to myself as I move forward?

Can I honor God as I sit still and wait, seeking guidance and a sense of direction?

Moving without discernment is movement without meaning.

I recently shared this metaphor with a dear friend and it gave us both comfort. We had so much fun settling into this “trail-head” space together. She pulled her rock up to mine, and we sat together enjoying good company in the midst of the disorientation. I discovered the encouragement of sharing the journey with a few trusted friends, sojourners who will simply pull up a rock and wait together. I am grateful for friends who love me right in the middle of what feels messy. What a gift! It feels easier to be brave. No one is telling me to run as fast as I can to the next busy task.

We all experience this “space in between” several times in our lives. May this reflection bring you peace if you find yourself in a similar place.

Transition feels messy. You matter. You are not alone.

Here are a few of my favorite books that have held my hand through this experience:

friendship, Gratitude

Red Sea Road

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Photo by Tracy Kolenchuk

I woke up this morning to share breakfast with a dear friend at one of our favorite Indian bakeries. We savored each other’s company and the food. We laughed. We created whimsical ideas while we made plans together for an upcoming ladies’ retreat. I came home to my daughter who was dressed in overalls, potting two plants on the back patio while her curly headed schnauzer puppy danced circles around her. I feel myself settle… relief… emerging joy… hope.

Two years ago during the first week of December, my daughter withdrew from her high school with serious medical issues. For almost two years, she has had trouble functioning in her daily life.

A little over a year ago, Houston experienced Harvey. Three of my dearest friends lost their homes and most of their worldly possessions in the flood, including the one I shared breakfast with this morning.

Throughout these many months, I have struggled to find my compass. On the darkest days, sleep was difficult to come by. I found rest when I imagined I was sleeping on a cloud of prayers created by my precious friends and family.  I clung to those comforting prayers.

I clung to the prayers of our community and sweet strangers, prayed on behalf of those most impacted by Harvey.

My gratitude journal laid lifeless on my nightstand. I had no words. I had no thoughts in my head. My brain could not hold the words I sometimes attempted to read.

Last year, as part of an Advent celebration, Ellie Holcomb came to Houston for a concert. She shared how her community has also experienced a wilderness of disorientation over the past year. So much confusion, sadness, and pain. She leaned on the story of the Israelites fleeing from their slavery in Egypt, the only home they had known, into the desert filled with  fear, uncertainty, and a promise. God parted the waters of the Red Sea and made a way for them. She was inspired to write her next album, Red Sea Road, as a reminder that no matter the struggle, God makes a path and walks before us.

Red Sea Road

We buried dreams
Laid them deep into the earth behind us
Said our goodbyes
At the grave but everything reminds us
God knows, we ache

When He asks us to go on
How do we go on?

We will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road
How can we trust
When You say You will deliver us from
All, of this pain, that threatens to take over us
Well, this desert’s dry
But the ocean may consume
And we’re scared, to follow You

So we will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t see the way
He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road
Oh help us believe
You…

Continue reading “Red Sea Road”

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness, peace

Practicing Peace Daily

PeaceI am thinking about practicing virtues. I think about it often. My church family chooses a virtue every year to practice together. Last year it was joy. This year it’s peace. I am grateful to be a part of a community asking what it means to be people of peace in times that feel disorienting. A passage from Colossians 3 is framing our year-long adventure:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

The text guides me in peace; I am thankful. The wisdom of people in my community broadens me; I am grateful. How do I become a person of peace? Clothe myself daily with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and gratitude toward myself and others. Okay. Got it. Practice compassion, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude… sounds simple, right?

Well.

I keep getting snagged on challenges. I have been forced to spend some time around people. Frustrating people. Difficult people. I find it hard to access compassion, kindness, or gentleness. Instead, I feel anger, frustration, and sadness. Not peace.

Why is peace so hard? What about compassion and kindness?

Recently, I found comfort from Pema Chodron’s description of her own experience of cultivating love, kindness, compassion, and joy:

“Cultivating these four qualities, love, kindness, compassion, and joy, gives us insight into our current experience. It gives us understanding of the state of our mind and heart right now. We get to know the experience of love and compassion, of joy and kindness, and also of their opposites. We learn how it feels when one of the four qualities is stuck and how it feels when it is flowing freely. We never pretend that we feel anything we don’t. The practice depends on embracing our whole experience. By becoming intimate with how we close down and how we open up, we awaken our unlimited potential.

“It might feel like stretching into make-believe to say, ‘May this person who is driving me crazy enjoy happiness and be free of suffering.’ Probably what we genuinely feel is anger. This practice is like a workout that stretches the heart beyond its current capabilities. We can expect to encounter resistance. We discover that we have our limits: we can stay open to some people, but we remain closed to others. We see both our clarity and our confusion. We are learning firsthand what everyone who has ever set out on this path has learned: we are all a paradoxical bundle of rich potential that consists of both neurosis and wisdom.”

As I practice, I end up coming across my limitations, places where I need to grow and stretch my heart. Like physical exercise, these virtues take effort. When I am in familiar territory, around people I love and enjoy, I can access compassion, peace, and kindness. It comes naturally. However, when I decide to practice all day, every day, I encounter no shortage of opportunities to… well… practice. Even in times of frustration, those frustrations are opportunities for growth.

I am learning that a person of peace has to keep practicing. I need to practice with my spouse, with my children, with my church family, my coworkers, and my friends. It matters.

So, once again, it is time to go out into the world as a practitioner of peace still learning what it is to practice peace:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Gratitude

New Beginnings

Helen's Park, HoustonToday I am grateful for new beginnings.

I see my first client in my new private practice this morning. I am so thankful for the journey, for God’s guidance, and for all of the people who have walked alongside.

I am especially blessed to share this experience with my teenagers.

  • as my strong burly son helped me carry large boxes into my new space.
  • as my daughter helped me put together a filing cabinet while keeping us entertained with her favorite playlist. She had lots of fabulous opinions on how to best use the space.

The evening was filled with much silliness and lots of hard work. And, it felt extra special to be savoring this moment with them. They were so young when I started.

My heart fills with joy as my daughter tells me how proud she is. What a treasure to share this moment with them.

Gratitude

Dedicated to the One I Love

Look at the Bright Side

Today I am thankful for my husband. I continue to notice that our gratitude practice is a significant nourishing element and a protective mechanism over our twenty-two years of marriage. The more intentional we are about counting our blessings, the greater our level of marital satisfaction. Woo Hoo!

It is so easy to take each other for granted. We get busy. We get tired. What starts off as little frustrations can build into big irritations.

So, it is important to actively look for the bright side. Pay attention. Seek out blessings. Notice.

According to a recent article published in Psychology Today,

“Couples who had ongoing reciprocal appreciation were less likely to break up in the next nine months and even reported being more committed at the end of that time. The researchers concluded that a nourishing cycle of encouragement and appreciation provides extra incentive to maintain our relationships. In other words, when we appreciate our partners, we develop trust and respect. When we feel appreciated, we feel needed and encouraged.”

Today I am thankful for my husband. He is kind, compassionate, a great dad, a loving friend, and a generous listener. He is funny… really funny… full of adventure, smart, witty, and his eyes crinkle in a special way whenever he looks at me. I am blessed. I am grateful.

Gratitude

Time to Ride

Before we had our children, motorcycles were a big part of our life together. We rode all around Texas having little adventures together. But then small children came along and our priorities naturally shifted. He continued to ride, but our escapades together were put on hold.

We have been talking about getting a new bike for a while. The kids are getting older and we are once again restless for some adventure together.

Over the past year, Jeff has written his own version of a gratitude blog called 10,000 Truths to celebrate life and his experiences of over 10,000 miles of road on his dependable black and chrome steed.

So yesterday, he rode up to the dealership to say goodbye to his old friend and begin a new chapter. I expected another black and chrome edition, but was surprised when he texted me a picture of burgundy and very dark red. Then, he told me the nostalgia he felt when he saw this new bike. It reminded him of the bike we owned our first year of marriage. We lived in a cheap run-down house with no air-conditioning or heat. We occasionally heard gun shots ring from neighboring houses. So, we weren’t too keen on leaving his prize motorcycle outside in the front yard. We would wheel it in at night, right into the living room, and tuck it in to sleep. What a memory. IMG_3500

Last night, as he wheeled the bike into the garage, he beamed. It brought back so many memories for the two of us. Like we were circling back again. Right where we started so many years ago. Two idealistic dreamers ready for the next adventure. I am grateful he wants to share this whole big crazy adventure called life with me.

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Gratitude, Main Dish

Gutten Buns (Bierrocks)

It’s Friday! I drove the kids to school for the first time in months. Now that my son is driving, it is a rare treat. We played loud music and laughed on the way.

Notice the gift of this moment. Absorb. Smile. 1001895_10200893008880954_1910035649_n We have so much stuff going on today. In preparation, I made some healthy “hot pockets” to eat tonight after the kid’s soccer games. These German meat-filled buns are so delicious! My whole family loves them and we enjoy how easy it is to throw them into our lunches during a busy week. Somewhere along the years, we started calling them “Gutten Buns.” I used organic beef this time and they turned out really good (and healthy!) Bierrocks (Gutten Buns) Dough

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 pkg. Dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 6 – 6 ½ c. flour

Pour yeast and warm water (barely warm or luke warm to touch) in a small bowl and set until foamy on top. In large bowl sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in yeast mixture, melted butter, and egg. Stir together and kneed until smooth consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours (or overnight). Meat Mixture

  • Sauté 1 cup diced onion in olive oil (I prefer sweet onions)
  • Add 1 lb. Beef and brown.

Then Add:

  • 3 cups cabbage, finely cut
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • dash Tabasco sauce

Cover skillet and continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender. Do not add liquid. Cool slightly. IMG_3496 Roll dough into large thin square (about 1/4 inch thick). Divide into 5″ squares (about 16 squares). Place 2 T. meat mixture on each square. Bring corners of square together and pinch to form a roll. Place pinched side down on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes.

Great ideas for substitute fillings: 

  • Marinara sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese
  • Ham and cheese
  • Chicken salad and cheese