embracing what is

DSC_0016DSC_0007DSC_0019bwDSC_0012DSC_0018Her quick steps lightly skip across the pavement, beckoning me to hurry and catch up.  We dash down the gravel path and round the corner to the museum entrance.  Her face is aglow as she realizes that the words I spoke this morning, the promise made of places yet to be seen, really did come true.

—-

Days come and go quickly and sometimes, seasons change abruptly.  I can recall some early September mornings when the air grew cold overnight and you wake up and dig in your drawer for the wool socks much sooner than expected.  It can feel a little bit like the earth is betraying you – summer hasn’t lingered quite long enough and suddenly, the cold creeps in and steals your last warm sunsets away.

But after a bit, you relax a little.  Pull your sweater around snug and cup your mug of tea with your hands, feeling the warmth transferring and transforming.

The cold is doing its job.

If we remained stagnant forever, what would life be?  How would we grow and how limited would our perspective be?  In the end, we are thankful for the changing seasons.

—-

January 1st.  Just a day.  It could be any day.  But this day has ushered in a new season for me.  Nothing has really changed around me, but I have chosen to embrace what is.

Being more present to my children, finding time to reflect and plan, and being more intentional and mindful with my time has opened up so many possibilities for this year already.

I am dreaming again.

Today, this meant embracing the odd schedule my son’s classes are and devoting that time to my daughter.  We went to the local children’s museum and played together, and I reveled in watching her role play and problem solve and practice her social skills.

We walked to the art museum and catching a glimpse of the wonder in ehr eyes and hidden pleasure as she listened to the very sweet woman who, with joy, guided her to a whimsical woodland scene. Time at the library together, and before we knew it, time was up and we picked up her brother.

I was starting to feel like the drive and the time “stuck” in the area was a complete inconvenience in my life.

But just a small shift of perspective reveals that truly it was a beautiful opportunity.

b.e.

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working on lately

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The past few weeks I have been working to put together items for ‘Ola days this coming weekend.  My online store has not been active for a few months now, as I didn’t have the drive to maintain it and have been wanting to keep my craft more local for the time being.

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blessing the blessed

 

mandin100

I have been reading the book Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway, and although I am only a few chapters into it, I am already moved by the harsh realities of this culture so removed from my own.

It is the story of a Peace Corp volunteer who lived in a village in Mali for 2 years, working alongside her host who was a young midwife.

I came across the book as I recently began to read more about midwifery in order to become more informed on the subject before my formal schooling begins. This year I am taking the first steps toward reaching this goal by completing prerequisites, but it will be several years, no doubt, before I actually become licensed, and at least a few years before I can begin my actual midwifery training.

Part of my passion for maternity care is out of the extremely positive experience of the two births of my own children. I have come to believe that the act of giving birth and our birth stories are a vital part of who we are as mothers.

The thing about the US, is that even though it is true that our maternal morbidity and mortality rates are some of the highest in the developing world (despite how much we spend on maternity care in our country) we at least have access to so much life saving modern medicine and treatments which are not available in many other parts of the world.

Even though I do hope that our rising maternity mortality rates will drop and actions will be made to reverse this trend, we are still blessed beyond measure when compared to places like the village of Namposella in Mali, where 2 out of every 5 children die before their fifth birthday, and maternal mortality rates are some of the highest in the world.

I have been excited about the possibility of taking my training somewhere like this in order to help these people have access to something that is such a basic human need. I don’t know when or where or how this will happen, but there is such a deep stir in my heart as I have begun to seriously pursue this calling.

As I was considering this, a simple thought came to mind: as long as I live in America, I will always be blessing the blessed.

No matter if you are richer or poorer than me, all of us still have more than so many people in the world.

I’m not saying that we should not be giving generously and lovingly to the people around us where we live. No. We are called to be a real part of the community we have been given and the place in which God has us. And I am not discrediting those who are considered to be living in poverty in our country.  Suffering resides everywhere in our world.  These people have real needs which we can meet in order to give hope and administer grace and peace.

Following the example of Jesus, he extended the love of God to people by meeting their practical needs and showing them how much they mattered in his sight. From what is recorded of his ministry in the new testament, it seems to be more focused on meeting the needs of the sick and poor.

We give not because we place a high value on the actual material things or experiencing a certain lifestyle or even obtaining a level of prosperity in life.

We give in order to meet people in a tangible way that demonstrates the values we have been taught by Jesus: loving others as ourselves and blessing and praying for our enemies, putting others before ourselves and treasuring the things that have eternal value.

It is easy to give to those who we like and have similar interests in and want to have like us back. It is much harder to give to those who do not understand us or have their own opinions about our motives and lifestyle.

I am writing this to myself more than to anyone else.

I want to be someone who reaches beyond the social lines we draw, even if it is uncomfortable and hard and I am unable to defend myself in any way, and give from the deep grace that has been offered to me.

I am tired of simply blessing those who bless me and who already have so very much.

It is good and I love these people and am so thankful for their friendship and none of us can truly give without having these people around us to help encourage and energize us and share our struggles and joys with. I am not saying to cut off these relationships or stop giving to each other in a way that edifies and strengthens and hopefully, challenges one another.

But I do hope that more of us can look at our lives and realize how much we have and how much those around us have, and consider more deeply the time and energy we are putting into being a blessing to those around us.

I wonder what the world would look like if we all took a much closer look at what it means to truly and practically and really bless those who are poor?

For who is poor and what is making them poor and how can we give to them what will actually make their lives rich?

Heavy thoughts with few answers are on my heart as I sit here drinking my coffee in my warm home with clean clothes on my back and two healthy children.

How do I teach them how very much they have and how temporal the many things we seek to accumulate are and how our life is so very short and there is so much to enjoy and take in and give and be, if only we can get past ourselves and the lifestyle we have been sold on belonging to us since we were young?

– b.e.

notes and further reading:

Image source

UNICEF statistics for Mali

Huffington Post: Fact Of The Day #26: Maternal Mortality Rate Rising Despite Expensive Care (INFOGRAPHIC)

 

what I wasn’t told when I got married

August 125Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated 7 years of marriage.

I wrote a simple post about how we celebrated, which you can see here.

It seems like when I first got married, I received a lot of advice about how to deal with “those” days.

We all have “those” days.

When we aren’t thinking clearly or feeling quite like ourselves.

When we find our doubts surfacing and our brows furrowing and we are just trying to make it through the day.

At most of my bridal showers, the guests filled out advice cards to help prepare me for my impending lifelong commitment to one person. Many of these cards had words of wisdom about how to deal with “those” days in the context of marriage.

I was warned I was bound to have moments where I would look at my husband and find myself having a hard time remembering why I married him.

It is good to be prepared for those harder days and I am grateful for the wise words I have received.

But I wonder why no one told me how much fun we would have growing together, how much deeper we would appreciate each other and how much more we would find satisfaction in each other as we grew older.

Or that every year we would love each other more than the one before.

I always thought the older we got and the more kids we had the less energy we would have and the less desired I would be.

But

he tells me I’m beautiful every single day.

And even when its three in the afternoon and I am still in wrinkly clothes and my hair hasn’t been washed in a few days and I have snot and food stuck on my clothes by preschoolers and I flinch away when he puts his hand around my waist because I know he feels this belly left from bearing our little ones and I feel anything but beautiful on the inside or the out, he somehow manages to help me start to believe him and to allow him to love me.

Sometimes we don’t feel lovely simply because we are pushing away those who love us by brushing their words and affections aside.

We think we are being strong, but instead, we are putting up barriers to the source of our strength.

With the confidence I receive from him, I flourish and I am able to listen and respond and give more fully to those I love.

And is that not a picture of how Christ loves us?  When I find myself trying to do things out of my own strength, even if I succeed for a time, I later find that I have actually been distancing myself from the very place I am made most strong, from the very one whose love can save me, who has given me my purpose and has set me free.

If we truly believed that we are loved, that we are beautiful, I wonder how much different our days could be?

And how many are there who do not have this picture in their life and need someone to step in, look them in the eyes and begin to bring them to a place where they can be made whole and strong and realize their loveliness?

– b.e.

Simplicity is not a sacrifice

My husband and I started reading the book, Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, and while we are only one chapter into the book there is so much to digest and think about and evaluate in our own life even in the few words we have read so far.  

Being in the season of lent, I thought it was appropriate to focus on sacrifice.  Many people view Lent simply to the extent of it being a time to give up some sort of vice or habit.  We have found it to be a rhythm we deeply appreciate during the year to break up bad habits and regain focus in different areas of our lives.

In terms of simplicity, it may feel like a sacrifice looking from the outside.

However, I am not talking about the sacrifices you must make when adopting a more simple lifestyle, but rather the idea that not embracing a simple life is the real sacrifice.

In his book, Elgin demonstrates this by listing the positive outcomes of conscious simplicity such as promoting fairness and equity among people, finding balance in all realms of life, stripping the unnecessary clutter, distraction, and busywork from our lives, connecting with those who really matter and staying focused on what is really important in life, and living in a way that looks ahead to the future and cares about the generations who follow.  (p. 4-5)

In contrast, he goes on to list the ways in which we make huge sacrifices every day by choosing to continue in a stressful and materialistic lifestyle.

How we are really sacrificing when we are sitting for long hours in traffic away from our homes and those we care about so we can make a living, when we are giving away hours of our lives for a job that is nothing more than just that, and when we lose the feeling of community as we are more cut off from our neighbors.  Not to mention the natural outcomes such as extinction of animals and plants due to our carelessness toward the earth.  (p.6)

Many people will look at some of the choices we make and think (or even say to us), “I would rather die than live without (fill in the blank)”

I thought like this (perhaps not so dramatically) at one point, too.

And there are still things that are hard to “give up”, but perhaps that is because I still retain the viewpoint that I will be missing out on something if I exchange it for a simpler counterpart.

This isn’t about legalism or doing something just for the sake of being different or radical.

This about living life in a holistic way that blesses others and gives us a greater meaning and depth in life.  As I trade in one way of living for something different, I have found greater freedom and time and a feeling of wholeness I didn’t know was possible to have.

My actions may not contribute a great deal to the environment or greater community in the grand scheme of things.  But, for me and hopefully the people around me, life can be richer, more meaningful, and less rushed.  As I tread lighter on the earth, perhaps I am able to leave a little bit more for someone else.

We need to shift our thinking from viewing  a simple lifestyle (not involuntary poverty) as a sacrifice or detrimental to growth, and realize what we are missing out on if we continue to focus on acquiring more and placing value on things that will not last or which may even contribute to human suffering (whether in generations to come, countries around the globe, or even in the places we ourselves live right now).

We are pretty good at turning a blind eye to many of the things we support silently and habitually every day in our western lifestyle, because we are so removed from them.

That is sacrifice.

But is it ours to make?

-b.e.

Further Reading:

Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin

fully embracing the moment

My friend pinned this image on pinterest the other day, and I found it to be a simple reminder of living in the present and with intentionality.

I have had so many things on my mind lately – plans, ideas, projects – that  I find myself constantly going over in my head when I will get to the next task and how I will go about getting it done, while only halfheartedly participating in the richness of the moment around me.  

This has been on my mind for a little while now, and I feel challenged this week to make more intentional choices about how my time is spent and where my focus is in every moment, thinking less about myself and more about the broader picture of how my actions effect others.  I want to be fully embracing what I am doing or being a part of and not be constantly worrying about all those other loose-ends and never ending to-dos on my list.

Trying to remember that they will still be there – waiting on my list – for when it is time to focus on them.

– b.e.