Embracing Goodbye

Our recent life change occasioned an above average amount of goodbyes last month. I’ve never been one to relish partings (who does, really?), and these farewells were no different.

We said goodbye to a church body who had provided a livelihood and supported our ministry. We said goodbye to students who had become a very special part of our lives. We said goodbye to a small group of friends who acted as family in the absence of our own, who hosted baby showers, shared yard equipment, served and prayed with us.

Our transition had been in the works since September, but the finality of our move wasn’t real until we started saying those goodbyes. Despite looking forward to a new season in life and ministry, there was a bittersweet edge to each hug and handshake. Each explanation of our move held hope for the future and a bit of dismay at what, and who, would be left behind.

Embracing GoodbyeI wasn’t sure how to navigate the sadness and excitement without feeling disingenuous to one or the other. I’m ashamed to admit I snuck away from a couple of gatherings early to avoid the sadness of a last goodbye. When a goodbye was unavoidable, I assured myself right along with others that this wasn’t farewell forever. And though the likelihood of us visiting Coeur d’Alene again is high, the vague promise of seeing people again felt weak.

When faced with long-term goodbyes, it seemed easier on my heart to say, “see you soon.” I could avoid the well-spring of emotion attached to parting with certain people by assuring myself that this wasn’t going to be the last time I saw them. But, saying “see you soon,” left so much unsaid.

I didn’t tell some people just how much their generosity and service meant to our family. I didn’t tell some people how much our coffee dates brightened up my days. I didn’t tell some people how much I admired their intentionality and thoughtfulness. I didn’t tell some some people how much I appreciated their consistent prayers. Because I said “see you soon,” instead.

Embracing goodbye acknowledges that there are seasons in life. Some of the sweetest relationships I’ve had have only lasted a short while and I’ve struggled against that fact. People and places will come and go and our inability to accept their transience diminishes the lasting influence a seasonal circumstance or relationship can have.

Embracing goodbye helps acknowledge the impact people have made on your life; each goodbye a little pile of stones to remember what God did through that relationship. I have many little piles of stones from our time in Coeur d’Alene and I thank God for what He accomplished through each person those stones represent. I only wish I had embraced goodbye more wholeheartedly in person.

Embracing The New Normal

Just over five weeks ago, a miracle happened. A new life entered the world with gusty cries and flailing arms. I gave birth to a pint-sized person who forever changed my life on that day. Our family is now one person bigger. Our room sleeps three instead of two. Our bodies produced another body who is now flesh and blood among us. And like with any other extraordinary occurrence, the wake of this miracle has changed more than just the physical. I have a new role, new responsibilities, and a new routine.

I have a new normal.

embracing the new normal

My house is in constant need of picking up. I’m still wearing my maternity jeans. My mom makes most every meal. I have to be careful about bouncing too much during Zumba or I just may wet my pants a little. My hair sees more spit-up than shampoo. I cry for joy at the thought of 3 hours straight of sleep. My thoughts are barely coherent and they most certainly don’t get written down in my journal.

But, ever since that miracle happened, the one so full of hope and joy, I’ve been striving to get back to the old normal. I strive like there’s some magical moment when life will return to its usual stride. I strive like after a certain amount of weeks James will just be an add on to the old normal. In the old normal, I could keep my house clean and have dinner on the table when Tim got home from work. I fit into skinny jeans that didn’t have an elastic waist band. In the old normal, I could jog a 5K without feeling like I got run over by a semi truck the next day. I had time to process, journal, and share regularly in this space. While I’m sure some of those old normal habits will return in time, I’m not sure making that my goal is wise.

Specific goals get in the way of healthy adjustment. They can take the focus away from progress and place it on results. Adjusting to motherhood isn’t some black and white event with a definite beginning and end. It’s all a messy, grey process. I can’t just arrive at adjustment like my little one arrived in the world – hard and fast with a wail and one final push. I need to define my new normal by how I engage the process instead of the outcome.

So, I walked a 5K at the gym. I napped instead of vacuuming because I’m a better mom and wife when I get enough sleep. I read a board book instead of a novel. I haven’t started a strict diet so my body makes enough milk.

I’m participating in the process of my new normal. I don’t want to miss out on the nuances of this season because I was consumed with the past. I don’t want to fight the changes involved with motherhood, this miracle.

The Hardest Thing About Pregnancy

They say that you take yourself with you wherever you go, that you are your one inescapable feature. I’m not sure who “they” are, but I would agree. You can alter your appearance, but you still look the same inside. You can move to a new city, but you pack yourself with the rest of your possessions. You can start a new relationship, but you have the same wounds and hurt that messed up the last one.

By default, external change does not generate internal change. [pullquote position=”right”]Trying to change who you are inside by manipulating outside circumstances is a dead end[/pullquote]. Transformation that begins in the heart is the only way to change who you are and God is the only one capable of heart transformation. I’ve been learning this lesson first-hand, lately, and it hasn’t been an easy one for me to grasp.

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I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body for years. I’d be hard pressed to pin point one incident that was the catalyst for the dysfunction between me and my body, but rather, I have a host of memories that have contributed to a long standing hyper-awareness between mind and flesh…

Keeping quiet while the other girls at recess compared their weights; my 5’2″ frame holding far more pounds than the average elementary student. Or, my two junior high crushes liking other girls with much slimmer bodies than I had. Or, being nicknamed Big Em by my freshman year math teacher (more for my height than my weight, but still fuel for my poor body image).

By the time mid high school rolled around, I was in full obsession mode. My body and my weight were both things I had previously let control me and now it was my turn to control them. I already prided myself on being goal-oriented and driven in other areas of my life, applying those traits to weight loss and fitness weren’t difficult.

I enjoyed the results, but results became a slippery slope of wanting more. Despite being underweight, I still felt big, like my efforts weren’t enough. Eventually, when my hair started to thin and I became anemic, I realized I may have crossed the line into unhealthy.

[pullquote]In my quest to change my body externally, I totally missed the fact that I was still being controlled internally by my body[/pullquote], just in a more socially acceptable way.

The past ten years have been full of discovery and growth in this area. I know that obsessing about my physical appearance is a way I can feel in control when things in my life feel out of control. I know that I all too often place my value in the world’s standard of beauty. I know that looking a certain way may bring happiness, but it doesn’t bring joy.

I also know that I still struggle with this in a major way.

Being pregnant – knowing that my body was changing to take care of a little one – did not change my struggle. If anything, it magnified that fact that I still let my body control my heart and mind. I brought my body image issues right along with me the past nine months, making my changing form the hardest thing about pregnancy. I’m now three weeks away from James’ due date and am realizing this journey is far from over.

For the sake of this not becoming a novel, I’m breaking this post up into two parts… Tomorrow will be more about my current struggles and what I’ve learned while being pregnant.

Have you ever tried to change who you are by manipulating external circumstances?

photo credit: LeonArts.at via photopin cc

When Transition Becomes a Tradition

transition and tradition

I haven’t had a normal Christmas in a few years.

By normal, I mean waking up at my parent’s house, waking up my brother who I’ve convinced to stay the night at our parents’ place (mostly so I can wake him up at my leisure), opening stockings, having a special breakfast, distributing presents and opening them around the circle one at a time, hanging out with various members of the family, enjoying dinner, then reading one of my Christmas presents (because I invariably get at least one book) the rest of the evening.

The last Christmas I had like that was three years ago. Dating, marriage, and moving have all disturbed my normal when it comes to holiday traditions. Before that, college and loss created their own unique transitions. This year is no different. Baby James’ due date made flying to New York for Christmas (the plan before I became pregnant) a bit iffy. My parent’s travel schedule, which included Coeur d’Alene in November and then again in January, made it impractical for them to come out in December too. So, Tim and I will be spending this Christmas alone.

Alone. Initially that held all the bad connotation you might imagine. But the longer I sat with those plans as reality, the more I realized God had my best in mind.

You can read more about how transitions have permeated my holiday traditions over on Kindred Grace today. Bonus: the post includes the recipe for one of my favorite holiday foods!