Tag: Purpose


Point Taken

I’m home from church again, miserably stopped up from allergies masquerading as a cold again, and every time I take a sip of water, it requires me to stop breathing through my mouth and then I start dying, and as I’ve been dying on an off for a month now, it’s getting pretty old. I try to stick to my blogging philosophy of No allergies, PLEASE because otherwise, every post written between January and September would include a description of my sinuses. However, it’s worth noting that I have only been able to go on one date with my husband since January, and throughout our romantic meal, I plowed through two entire packs of tissues and had to chew with my mouth open in order to avoid asphyxiation. Sexy.

You’d think a little friendly neighborhood pollen wouldn’t have that much of an effect on my day-to-day reality, and it probably wouldn’t—itching eyes and Neanderthal table manners aside—if not for The Haze. As I [attempt to] breathe, my brain accumulates layers of yellow-green dust that act as a mental smog. It takes all my energy to ride a train of thought to its conclusion these days, and more often than not, I lose my bearings mid-sentence. Surprisingly, writing becomes a lot more difficult when I can’t remember what I was…… uh…?

Take this post, for instance. I think at one point, it had one. A point, I mean. Whatever that point might have been, though, has disappeared into the yellow-green ether, and I can only hope that it was a good one. All I can remember at the moment is that I have a freelance deadline tapping its foot from my desk chair (as I bulwark myself in bed) and that the laundry still is not nor ever will be finished and that I can’t pop another antihistamine until… well, I don’t actually know when because I can’t remember anything from more than seven minutes ago.

In times like this, by which I mean every day between January and September, I have to rely on what I know to do instead of what I feel like doing, and maybe that’s why I was so desperate to nail down a life purpose before the end of our Christmas trip—because it was either that or spend the next nine months in bed with an ice pick. In all my hours of talking it over with loved ones and bouncing ideas off of God and journaling myself crazy, I have received less of the detailed personal business plan I requested and more of a single-facet word: WRITE!

And so I’m writing, even though I can’t remember why I should or why I started or more than anything else, why…





If you suffer from seasonal allergies, which utensils do you fantasize about using on your own head? (I dream about ice picks and Brillo pads, though today, I’m inclined to scratch both and just go for a guillotine.) 



As of yesterday, I still hadn’t picked a word for the year. As much as I wanted that to mean I was too cool and self-actualized to need one, the fact is that wordless and directionless are two sides of the same coin, and anyway, I’m only slightly cooler than a mealworm. Lately, I’ve been ungluing myself from bed at the last possible minute before getting the girls ready for school, and then hygiene and breakfast and allergy meds follow (not necessarily in that order), and by the time I sit down to take soul-inventory for the day, it’s already 9:00 without a single stray epiphany to show for it.

I know that life is a dynamic, untamable tempestress and that if I ever try claiming to have her figured out, I can expect a bitch slap upside the head.  But really. “Huh” does not count as a mantra.

Here is what I’m talking about:
The delightfully dreadlocked Mandy Steward chose “vulnerable” for the year.
Sarah Bessey, whose writing is fire and water all at once, went with “fearless.”
My precious warrioress Rain honed in on “unafraid.”
Erika Morrison, who is cooler than a whole stage of mealworms with their own backup dancers, picked “celebrate.”
Alise chose “do,” and Jeff chose “start,” and all around me, I see bravery, the determination to live life to its fullest. I see how starting the year with a focus puts each day into hopeful perspective, how it catapults daily routines into another stratosphere of worth.

To be honest, I feel like I’ve gypped myself by not staking the same kind of claim on 2012 from the beginning. However, my main goal when the calendar turned was riding out a dust storm that threatened to keep me an ocean away from my husband and girls. January was turmoil and surprise and blinding uncertainty, and the only thing I found myself whispering on repeat was “God with us, God with us.” The concept of Emmanuel, carried over from the Christmas crèche, carried me back home.

Since returning, I’ve taken the gift of joblessness as a wide-flung opportunity to be present for the people in my life—saying yes to invitations, penciling in long afternoons for relationships, participating in this online community, being with instead of just around. And I finally saw it this morning, the thread strung like a lifeline between January’s upheaval and February’s calendar blocks:


God with me, the warmth of divine-to-earth whispers in my ear even when religion leaves me cold.

I with you, here, fully engaged in connecting through my words, offering my authentic heart.

I with you, our conversations growing well worn and becoming ever more Real as I care them threadbare.

Partnering with the causes that rip compassion-wounds in my defenses.

Communicating with the people I’m inclined to write off.

Walking with my loved ones, old and new (even if this means [thinking really hard about] answering emails in a timely fashion…).

Making eye contact with my own life instead of ducking away to hide when it gets overwhelming.

Waking up with us—all of us, you and me and Emmanuel whispers—on my mind and my path for the day stretching double-wide.

I might be late to the party, but man, it’s good to be here.


Branded Flibbertigibbet

I recently started reading a blog that is so good, so good, that every single post has me either laughing or crying. Often both. (It’s hard to choose a favorite, but this post has my heart firmly entwined around its little finger.) Glennon writes with such humor and candor and ridiculous grace that my day is always better for reading her, but one thing in particular has stuck with me. She mentions how storytelling and shamelessness are her strengths, the gifts that fuel her unique purposes in life. To this, I say Rock on, sister! with accompanying fist-pumps.

To myself, however, I say something less celebratory like Huh. and finger the edges of my own uncertainty over the future. The decision to leave my job this year was hard-won, but it only feels like the lifting of my foot before choosing in which direction to step. Questions, doubts, worries, and more questions rise in quick succession these days, and I kick myself under the desk for consistently accomplishing less now that I have more time at my disposal.

My sense of social guilt has nagged at me for years now about not having a “brand,” a platform, a niche, a signature—whatever word best conveys direction and potential. Now, it’s morphing from unfocused guilt to true, urgent need as I look out over this blank-page year and ask, God, what the hell am I supposed to do with this?

I need to write like I need to breathe; that much is clear. It’s also clear that I’m not so much a storyteller as I am a thought painter, watching concepts take color and shape beneath my fingers. My brain-waves on any given day might pull toward mothering or spirituality or travel or the creative life or brownies; in fact, if I find myself slipping into a topic rut, I instinctively stop writing. I have a wild suspicion that if I rehash old material, my blog and everyone reading it will lapse into comatose boredom.

But isn’t that what a brand essentially is? The same lines of thought tackled from a variety of angles? A stamp of consistency that draws people with similar interests to comment and contribute and build a like-minded community? That’s just it—I don’t think I’ve been exactly the same person for any two days of my entire life. In the constant struggle and exhilaration of change, it’s hard enough to keep tabs on who I am without also nailing down what I’m about. Besides brownies, I mean.

I’m embarrassed to be outing myself as a lifelong flibbertigibbet, which just goes to show that I do not share Glennon’s gift of shamelessness. It could be that this state of flux is my strength, but I have a hard time seeing how something so vague and unwieldy can result in the kind of direction that gets someone up before dawn.

I’m not fishing for insta-answers here, though your speculations and stories are absolutely welcome. I’m simply painting my thoughts out as wide strokes on a blurred background in hopes that in the process, I’ll catch a glimpse of my bigger picture.


Above Expectations

My first reaction to sleeping in this morning was anger at myself. I feel like I’ve had enough post-trip adjustment time, and I had stored up big plans for this week, big deadlines with equally big hopes, big expectations of myself. Prying my groggy limbs off the mattress at 9:30 this morning? Not part of said expectations.

My frustration continued as I scrambled eggs for a family breakfast, fuming all the while at the steady ticking of time and my own weakness against it. But then, probably certainly thanks to the sanity-sparking effects of coffee and an unhurried chat with my husband, the truth began to dawn on me—this is what I had been so afraid of wanting.

During our time in the States, I let my boss know I wouldn’t be returning to work. There were a variety of reasons why I couldn’t continue at my teaching job, but it was still an extremely hard call for me to make. With Dan freelancing now, mine was the only guaranteed source of income, and I surprised myself by how reluctant I was to let go of that security blanket… even if it was only the size of a handkerchief.

Our lives needed some major changes for the new year, and even though leaving my job was a clear step, I had to do a lot of soul-searching before I found the courage to turn my resignation in. What finally convinced me were the guiding values I wrote about here: flexibility, generosity, authenticity, beauty, courage, creativity, community, intention, art. It would take every one of these to make it in an all-freelance, all-the-time household, and I was terrified of what could happen. But at the same time, my soul began to soar every time I imagined unrushed days with the freedom to let my fingers loose on the keys and opportunities to love well.

Days pretty much exactly like today.

 Freelancing(It’s hard to stay frustrated when you’re soaring.)



Choose Your Own Dust Storm

2012 for our family has whirled in like a dust storm. For all my hope that we would receive some sort of cosmic prize package for making it through 2011 intact, we’re still in the gritty thick of uncertainty. The positive side is that there’s no better time to evaluate core values than when nothing else is guaranteed. The less positive side is that we’ve simply had no time for self-evaluation.

Here’s a snack-sized recap of the past three weeks: We’ve traveled over 8,500 miles, mostly by car. We’ve celebrated a holiday each with Dan’s whole family and with mine, and we wish we could have spent more time with both. We’ve seen dear friends and missed getting to see others. We’ve made our traditional dash  to Urgent Care and added Natalie’s broken arm X-rays to our vacation album. We’ve procured a new driver’s license, a new passport, and one precious visa, and we’ve woken up on Italian time for many mornings in an ongoing attempt to get the other.

We still have a little bit of buffer time here in the States, but it’s not certain that I’ll be able to return home when Dan and the girls do. This week has been a unique exercise in balancing anxiety with trust that all will turn out for the best. Not to say that I’ve successfully gone all Zen Master, but I’m grateful for the perspective that comes with derailed plans, and I’m glad to finally have a bit of time today to take stock of what I’m bringing to the new year.

I don’t have any word or mantra picked out for 2012, and I haven’t dared yet to think of goals beyond the immediate future. However, the day that my Kickstarter project ended, one possible version of this year misted out of sight and another began to come into focus. It’s hard to fill in the details without even knowing which country I’ll be in come February, but I’m discovering just how important flexibility is on my list of guiding values. This year, I need to have space on my margins, the grace to enjoy life through its unpredictability instead of rushing from one source of resentment to the next.

It’s also on my heart to embody generosity this year, not so much with finances as with my time and attention (though being able to give more in a traditional sense would be great too). Of course, this will require me to reclaim my time and attention so that I can give them to the things that matter, and some heavy decisions are involved.

Unfortunately, there’s no PA system booming down from heaven to tell me what I should do this year. This is more like a choose-your-own-adventure novel with further direction on hold until I pick a page. I’ve never cared for those books, but there’s something to be said for being an active participant in your own story, isn’t there? Plus, I have a pretty good idea of the values I want to help guide my decisions this year:






…and this—creativity, community, intention, art, whatever name writing takes on any given day.

I’ll keep you posted as the dust begins to settle.


Out of Hibernation

The sun is channeling her inner bear these days, rising in a fogged stupor to growl at the world for a few hours before slinking back to her cave. Even the rain is half-hearted, and Christmas decorations are trying in vain to look like they belong.

I need to stop letting December catch me off guard every time, but this year is especially disillusioning. Dan’s switch from a salaried position to freelance work has been a wonderful thing, and we’ve watched a series of small miracles unfold over the last few months as he’s been offered projects that make him light up. However, we went through a hell of time to get here, and we still haven’t found stable ground. The last thing I want to do is throw a pity part when we have so much to be grateful for… but not being able to attend family Christmases or shop for gifts this year makes me want to join the sun in hibernating.

Of course, I’m still a mom and a wife and a teacher and notably not a woodland creature, so the mark of this December is putting one foot in front of the other in the dark dawn to the leaking coffeepot and then inhaling cappuccino steam with a cinnamon candle if I have time or scalding sips with a hairdryer if I don’t. (Usually the latter, but only because I love the snooze button too much.) It’s taming the school-traffic-work blitz with Sufjan hymns and baking cheese bread with my girls when I’m inclined to despair. It’s training myself not to panic when I check the mail, intentionally setting aside the problems I can’t fix. It’s fiercely loving this little family of ours, stumbling into prayer, and trusting, despite the impossible view from here, that we’re on the right path.

And sometimes, it’s taking a Sunday morning to catch up on desperately needed sleep, play Legos with the girls, sneak handfuls of caramel corn when no one’s looking (shh!), and remember to come out of my cave walking on my hands:

What does your December look like so far?


Escape Hatch

Apologies for all the sturm und drang around here lately. This has been one helluva year, and I’m experiencing every blip of turbulence with my usual intensity. I find myself craving simplicity—plotting my escape from the piles of things around the house that need organizing (or ironing, or mending, or de-spidering ::shudder::), disconnecting from the debates and demands of social media, and daydreaming of secret forest log cabins that come with their own cleaning ladies. There are so many things right now that we need, or at least think we do, but I’m weary of needing. I’m ready for the feng shui now, please.

We’re getting to a point in our transition time where I can actually choose what I want to do in the new year (i.e. – we won’t be relying as much on my income, fingers crossed), and goodness. What do I do with that kind of opportunity? Can I possibly inspire this angsty brain of mine to make something of it? I have grand ideas, but this year has sapped my energy to make them happen. Besides, my muse and intuition are off somewhere hanging out with the cool kids; the decision is all mine to make. And I feel as capable of making it as I am of jumping off the couch and running a marathon.

So I’ll let you friends do it for me. If you were wrapping up a long, turbulent year and needed to decide within a week what to pour yourself into come 2012, would you decide to:

A) Write a book, maybe even two, knowing that this decision is probably doomed to failure thanks to your chronic inability to self-inspire,
B) Keep your current job as it is a dependable source of spending money and you don’t want to let anyone down even though it keeps you too busy and stressed to be your true self,
C) Take the next flight to Canada and find yourself the nearest available secret log cabin?

Not quite sure where we are anymore

(Photo from two summers ago in Scotland… which, come to think of it, would work pretty well too.)

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