joy


Tomorrow I am giving my testimony in MOPS. I was originally going to give it back in February, but we were snowed out, so I was rescheduled all the way in May. I reread it just now after not having touched it since the winter, and thankfully nothing about my testimony has changed in the interim. I wanted to share it here both for others to read, and also because it encompasses a lot of the things I wrote about in the early days of this blog. Be aware that it’s quite long. ūüôā

I want to tell you a story this morning. Please keep in mind as you listen that this is not a story of grief, loss, fear and longing. Despite those elements being present in my testimony, this is a story about joy.

I want to start by reading a passage from Lamentations 3:

[a]I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
2 He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.

And the New Living Translation’s version of 1 Peter 1:6: “So be truly glad: there is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure trials for a little while.”

Has anyone here ever heard — or said — that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle? I think it was Mother Teresa who first made that claim. She was wrong. I know only the slightest bit about God, but one thing I do know is that He does, in fact, give us things that are beyond us to endure. There comes a point when all of us have to lean on Him, and not on our own strength.

There was a time in my life when I read — and lived — Lamentations 3 every single day. From 2010 through 2012, I experienced a season of profound grief which included three significant losses within one year. I suffered two miscarriages four months apart (one of which occurred very unexpectedly on my 31st birthday), and just as I began to emerge from that fog, my mother died of breast cancer after a sudden decline. The Lord truly had walled me in so I could not escape. He weighed me down with chains.

I found out that I was pregnant with my son, Will, just over 24 hours before my mom died; in fact, I told her I was pregnant during the very last conversation we were able to have. So I began my journey into motherhood in the midst of deep, deep grief. I wasn’t excited to be pregnant; I was filled with fear about losing another baby, and I really wasn’t sure I was interested in bringing new life into a world I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a part of anymore. I felt very keenly the fact that we are all just pilgrims in this earthly world, and that our true home is in Heaven. I knew that my mother had gone to her true home, and that my first two babies had as well, and frankly, their home sounded a lot better to me than the lonely world in which I was stranded.

Not only was I grieving, but I felt a lot of resentment as well. I resented the fact that, as Joel says, my years were being “eaten by locusts”. I was enraged by my loss. I walked around feeling for a long time like there was a literal giant hole in my chest where my heart had been, and that frequently it bled out all over the floor. I got very used to this feeling — a lot of the time, in fact, I could actually feel it physically. As you might imagine, this was uncomfortable, but the physical sensation matched my emotional state, and this was in a way comforting.

I realized early on that in my weakness, I was not at all up to the task of “staying strong” during these ordeals. I needed God to carry me through. I prayed every day not for the strength to endure, but for him to carry me, shelter me, protect me, uphold me during the storm. I felt more than anything like I was on the floor of a tiny boat, riding these giant waves of grief and anger, just praying for his protection. “Staying strong” was not at all an option, because my strength was gone. If I was going to survive my grief and learn to live again, it was going to be because of God’s mercy, and because of his strength.

I was blessed to have been raised by a godly mother who used her cancer diagnosis as an opportunity to glorify God. After she died, her friends told me that she never asked for her cancer to be taken away. Instead, she asked that God would be glorified through it. As a cancer patient she felt blessed to have the hope of Christ as she faced death. Her prayer was answered in every way, not least through the challenge it presented to me, her daughter. If my mother could pray that God would be glorified through her illness and death, so I must too be willing to pray the same thing in all of my own circumstances, no matter how painful. I reluctantly asked that God would be glorified through my grief, and that my losses would ultimately bring me closer to him, that I would grow in wisdom and closer to that elusive peace that surpasses all understanding.

I did not want to pray these things; in fact, to be honest I really would have preferred to be able to stay blissfully ignorant and spiritually shallow. I longed to return to a time when I still believed that if you just “fought bravely”, you could “beat” a deadly disease, and that having a baby was as easy as simply wanting one. Spiritual growth and closeness to Jesus did not seem like a worthy tradeoff for the loss of my mom and my babies. But I kept being drawn back to Philippians 3:

7¬†But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.¬†8¬†What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ¬†9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ‚ÄĒthe righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.¬†10¬†I want to know Christ‚ÄĒyes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,¬†11¬†and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The challenge was just that forgetting what was behind, straining toward what was ahead, and pressing on toward the goal were not fun things to do. I was challenged over and over to actually claim my faith. Psalm 63 states, “because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Better than life. Can I really believe that? I was being called to actually live out these truths I had professed for my entire life.

In addition to having to face the stark truth of Scripture and live up to my mother’s testimony, I was also just very tired of my grief. I knew that my grief and rage were both natural responses and also very necessary, but I finally came to a place where I didn’t want them to rule my life forever.

From the book of Joel:

‚ÄúI will repay you for the years the locusts¬†have eaten‚ÄĒ
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[b]‚ÄĒ
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”

Note the line my great army that I sent among you.

I had no desire to become my grief, and succumbing to a lifetime of sadness and anger would only be allowing the locusts to eat not just these years, but my life and my soul. If I was to believe the Scriptures, one of God’s promises to me would be to repay me for these years of grief. To redeem it. How could I allow that to happen if I stayed locked inside my sadness? How could I do that, and allow cancer to win? To allow death to win? 1 Corinthians 15:26 states that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. My task was clear: I had to learn how to be happy.

There are 235 references to the word joy in the Bible, which is more than the words grief, sorrow and weep combined. So that told me something. Slowly, God began to show me how to make my way through the labyrinth of grief and use it as a means of finding joy.

I learned quickly that there was no avoiding the pain of grief, and that trying to white-knuckle my way through the experience wouldn’t make it any easier. Instead I turned to my yoga practice, and there I became comfortable with being uncomfortable. God used yoga as a way for me to begin to approach peace in the midst of pain. If I could breathe and stay calm while balancing in a difficult pose, I knew I could do the same while balancing in difficult circumstances. I stopped being afraid of the grief. It wasn’t going anywhere, and I didn’t have to let it hurt me. My grief and I began a hesitant coexistence.

He also allowed me to be angry. I really believe that actually experiencing what I was feeling — all the rage, the overwhelming grief, the fear — without running away from it was key to being able to survive it. Anger was huge for me; I did not shy away from it. It was far easier to be angry than sad. My rage wasn’t focused on anything in particular, but it was my faithful companion for a long time and I actually think it was healing.

Through all of this I clung to the verse in 1 Peter that reminds us that there is wonderful joy ahead. I knew now that this must be true regardless of how much I could lose. No matter what happened to me, I believed God’s promises to be true. I had to. There is so much evidence in scripture of this wonderful joy — weeping may remain for the night, but joy cometh in the morning (Psalm 30). The Lord shall be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end (Isaiah 60). Death could not win. It was impossible; it was written there in black and white, in the gospel, in Jesus. The victory had already been won. It was mine for the taking, but I had to want it, I had to believe it, I had to receive it.

I felt all the while like I was in a kiln. I felt like I had been lit on fire, but the fire was doing what it was meant to do: purify me. I was unfinished clay and I was going to come out beautiful. My losses made me a different person. In the end they made me a better person. I am wiser, I am more faithful, and despite all that God has taken from me, I trust him far more than I ever did before, because he has shown himself trustworthy to me. He has repaid me for the years the locusts have eaten. This doesn’t mean that my loss was good or that the purpose of enduring them was in order to make me a better person. It means God redeems. It means he took death and disease and used them for his glory.

There is a line in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that resonates with me, and it’s this: “He will not forget his grief, but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.” This is what the Lord has done in me.

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It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but I still have moments where I instinctively reach for my phone to call my mom. Most recently this happened the other day when I took a picture of Anna practicing her sitting. I then had that whole numbing string of realizations: I can’t text her this picture. In fact, she never met Anna. And in fact, she never even met Will. She never got to know me as a mother.¬†She’s still gone.

It hurts just as much as it ever did, but I’m so used to it now that it feels more like a heavy, dull punch to the chest than a violent blow to the head. It knocks the wind out of me, but I can catch my breath sooner now. It’s wearying to think that this is going to continue happening for the rest of my life.

I’ve accepted my loss. I have “come to terms” with it, whatever that means in the end. Spiritually and theologically I allow it. But it still pisses me off.

In the end I’m just really annoyed that I don’t have my mother around. She doesn’t know my kids and they’ll never know her. It was my worst fear when she was diagnosed, and now that it’s come true, it feels just as empty as I thought it would. I hate not having her around for advice, for encouragement, just for company. Right now I don’t hate it in a sad, disappointed, grieving way — I hate it in an angry way.¬†I may have a happy life, but I can think of a million little ways in which it would be ten times happier and richer if she were still a part of it.

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Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting? — honestly I can see the¬†victory and feel the sting¬†all the time. It’s here in my own heart, in my neverending sadness. It’s hard not to feel sometimes like death has already won.

But today’s Easter sermon was on 1 Corinthians 15. What a relief I felt when I read the passage! It’s one of my favorites and one that brought me deep comfort when my mom was dying.¬†To destroy suffering.¬†(You can listen to it here.) What Easter means is that death¬†hasn’t won. The battle has already ended.

50¬†I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51¬†Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed‚ÄĒ 52¬†in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53¬†For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54¬†When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‚ÄúDeath has been swallowed up in victory.‚ÄĚ

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
¬†¬†¬†¬†Where, O death, is your sting?‚ÄĚ

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That victory, here on earth, here in my mortal body, feels hollow sometimes. Sometimes I just¬†want her back, damn it, and that’s the end of it. It’s that physical ache that will never really go away, that hole in my chest that’s never going to close, that longing that is not joy.

But death has been swallowed up in victory. On the other side of this we will laugh at it. I don’t know why there is so much suffering in this world, but in spite of it, laughing in its face, I see God’s redemptive work every day. One day I will try to write and make sense of my mother’s life story and testimony, but all I can see when I look at it right now is that redemptive work. It’s all I see, too, when I think about my own grief and loss. See? The battle has already been won. Suffering will end. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

This is why Easter is my favorite holiday. The hope fulfilled. The longing satisfied. The joy, the joy, the joy.

Sometimes I have to stop and remind myself that I spent about 70% of my time in middle and high school writing novels. I tend to have to do this when I’m going through a period where I feel like I have little in common with the people around me, which happens from time to time. My early- to mid-20s were one such period, and I remember feeling more than anything¬†like an alien who had been stranded on planet Earth only to have to try and make her way back home.

I’m saying all this not to expound upon what a unique and special snowflake I am, but to give you some background to understand my reaction to this line from¬†Quiet, which I read last month:

I look back on my years as a Wall Street lawyer as time spent in a foreign country. It was absorbing, it was exciting, and I got to meet a lot of interesting people whom I never would have known otherwise. But I was always an expatriate.

I had to stop reading for a minute when I finished that line, and just look up and blink. I had never seen or heard it (“it” being this feeling that has followed me my entire life) phrased this way, but reading those sentences made me realize that back in the early 2000s, I didn’t know it, but I wasn’t the only alien stranded here on earth. I wasn’t the only expatriate.

The above paragraph gets to the heart of the matter, but really, reading¬†Quiet¬†was deeply gratifying. Not only did it show me that many of the things about myself that I have always thought (or were told) were character flaws aren’t, but¬†it just made me sit and think about some other things that I’ve taken for granted. Like what I want out of a career (if I even want a traditional “career”). What that says about me. What makes me happy, and what merely feels like an obligation.

Much of my career was spent in the social work field, which I found satisfying and interesting, and for a long time I was bound and determined to resume that once my kids were old enough. But these last several months have me rethinking everything, including my dedication to my old career. Did I pursue social work because I felt a true personal passion for it, or because I felt a moral obligation to help other people? Why do I view helping through such a narrow lens? Why do I feel like being a stay-at-home mom is selfish sometimes? Why do I believe that taking my own nature into account when I’m making decisions is akin to cheating? Why do I think that¬†spending my time writing, and finally challenging myself to write a good novel, isn’t a good enough use of my time?

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I don’t have any pictures uploaded of myself as a 13-year-old novelist, so this idyllic scene will have to suffice. You can’t see the cat that’s just out of the frame.

I should say that I’m closer to letting those things go than I¬†ever have been, and reading books like¬†Quiet and¬†March have helped a lot. I didn’t realize how much I reflexively resist my nature or deny it, but I suspect that goes a long way toward explaining a lot of things: my mental struggles with not working; my lack of writing; even that feeling Cain describes above in relation to work, feeling like almost every job I’ve ever had was like being in a foreign country. Truthfully I think a lot of my struggles with being a stay-at-home mom arose from a sense of guilt or a reluctance to allow myself to enjoy it.

Does this all sound painfully neurotic, and certainly too neurotic for one’s mid-30s? (You should have been around in 2003 …) I just feel like my compass is finally facing the right direction. I am finally taking the steps that will lead me home. I don’t have to be an expatriate forever after all.

I’m still alive!

Obviously, things have been pretty quiet on the blog front, as I was reminded just today by my dear friend Melissa. That is partly intentional and partly just natural; I haven’t had too much to say lately. Truthfully I’ve always felt like my blog is the story of my journey out of grief — and now that that isn’t so much a part of my everyday life, I guess I’m not sure what the story is. So is there one? We’ll see. I thought I would stop by with a little update on how things are going.

First, there’s this guy:

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Behind him is our makeshift baby gate, which was totally ineffective once he figured out he could just push them out of the way.

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He is now 14 months old. The above picture captures him in a rare moment of repose. He is not walking yet (we are in no hurry for that milestone to arrive, honestly) but he is EXTREMELY busy pulling up, standing, cruising, pushing cars, stacking cups, and looking at the one page on his “baby’s first 100 words” book that has all the pictures of cars and trucks on it. He also now has three teeth, including one of his upper front teeth (it just poked through on Sunday!) which means soon he will be looking much more like a toddler. I know it’s very unusual to not have any top teeth at this age, but I just feel fortunate that I got to keep my baby looking like a baby for as long as I have. Soon enough he’ll have all kinds of teeth and be walking and talking — I am savoring these last few baby days for as long as I can.

This is also happening:

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Can you believe it?? In the back are two out of control cucumber plants and some bell peppers. The mass of green leaves are green beans. In the foreground, which you can’t see, are summer squash.

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SERIOUSLY out of control. We have had a very wet, cool spring which I think has helped matters tremendously, and it’s so exciting to watch the progress! I hope I’m not sidelined by any blight or blossom end rot.

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I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this.

There are also tomatoes in containers on the deck, like I did last year:

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I tried spinach in another pot, and peas and lettuce in the ground around the deck, but it didn’t take off. Too much clay and not enough sun around the deck (and, uh, too many neighborhood bunnies); poor soil quality for the spinach. Poor soil quality actually almost ruined my tomatoes, too, but a trip to the garden store for some fertilizer and compost tea helped them to perk back up. I am actually learning a lot about gardening this year and it’s been a lot of fun. I’m at the stage now where I’m realizing how little I know, but a) I’m starting to develop the resources I need to figure out the answers to my questions, and b) I also am starting to know my limits so as to not become overwhelmed. All I need to know is how to help my plants thrive this year, and next year if I feel able to, I can learn more and go from there. No need to start the urban homestead just yet. I just hope I get to eat some homegrown produce later this summer and feel like the effort we’ve been putting in has been (somewhat, at least) worth it.

Really, though, the vegetable garden has been a lot of fun. We rebuilt the raised beds (and by “we” I mean Steve and my dad) and filled it in with a mix of really high quality soil, and the difference in this year’s garden vs. gardens past is pretty amazing. Again, I think a lot of that is because we’ve had a lot of rain, but the most important garden lesson I’ve learned so far is that soil quality matters. Amazing, right?

I was unsuccessful putting vegetables around my deck, so I think I want to replace them with some perennials, but that project is more slow-going. I have made tenuous peace with the ugly bushes; we are going to replace the largest one with a hydrangea or a berry bush of some sort (anyone know of a nice, hopefully flowering bush that does well in a fair amount of shade?), but not anytime in the immediate future. One thing at a time!

The last update that I want to share is the most exciting, though. Are you ready? Here it is:

I got a job.

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YEAH.

I got a job working for my church coordinating the nursery! It is actually a perfect opportunity — it allows me to use (and build!) my gifts and professional skills doing meaningful work that I think I’ll really enjoy. It is a shared position, and I will be working about 10-15 hours per week, including every other Sunday and every other Wednesday during the school year. I can bring Will with me to the nursery and do the rest of the behind-the-scenes work from home. I will also, for the first time, be supervising others, so I am definitely thinking through and praying about how I want that to work.

It is a real answer to prayer, though. I’ve talked about it before, but I have struggled a lot in the past year without having any kind of professional identity or outlet for using my gifts, so I am incredibly thankful for the chance to join the working world in a way that also allows me the flexibility I want right now. To be totally honest, I often wonder whether I’ve let myself down for “opting out” when my career was in such a good place, and I still miss it painfully, so truthfully I am SO grateful for an opportunity to just continue working, treading water so to speak, while also being able to care for my child(ren, someday) and maintain my own schedule. It shows me too that God hears our hearts and that He does honor those deep desires.

Oh, and I do have a long-term plan here, I think. Since I just said above that I miss my career so much, the obvious question is, well, why not return to it? — I just think I’ve decided that rather than return directly to the workforce, I want to go back for my MSW in the next few years if it’s possible. Which is yet another reason why I’m so thrilled about this opportunity.

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Look, I just couldn’t find any picture that had a big enough smile.

 

Compare this picture:

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… to one taken almost exactly a year ago.

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Amazing how much the human body grows and develops in just one year, isn’t it?

Will turned one on Thursday — capping off a week in which he 1. got his first tooth (!!), 2. officially dropped to one nap, and 3. started riding in a convertible car seat. Where did my baby go? All of a sudden he seems so big. Time is going by so fast these days and I wish I could slow the hours down.

I kept hearing when I was pregnant, over and over again, that being a mom was so hard. Having babies was so hard. Life would be so hard, it’s so hard, it’s just so hard.

And yeah, it is hard sometimes. I have some days and weeks where I am lonely and tired and I wish I had coworkers to talk to or something more intellectually stimulating to do. I rinse out a lot of diapers. My body is never again going to return to its pre-baby state.

But hard is not the first word that comes to mind when I think about motherhood. I think joyful, I think amazing, I think huge, I think awe-inspiring. It is all those things — and also fun, weird, frustrating, humbling, hilarious — before it is hard. Life is amazing (I mean Life here, not my own small little present-day) and I feel stunned and overwhelmed sometimes when I think of the enormity of the task ahead of me. What a tremendous responsibility parenting is. But I feel so blessed and fortunate that it is such a joyful responsiblity. I have done nothing to deserve all of the goodness and wonder in my life, and yet: here it is all the same.

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“Long ago, before we were married, H. was haunted all one morning as she went about her work with the obscure sense of God (so to speak) ‘at her elbow,’ demanding her attention. And of course, not being a perfected saint, she had the feeling that it would be a question, as it usually is, of some unrepented sin or tedious duty. At last she gave in‚ÄĒI know how one puts it off‚ÄĒand faced Him. But the message was, ‘I want to GIVE you something’ and instantly she entered into joy.”
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

I can’t help but relate to H.

 

1. My word for 2013 is mindfulness. I want to be making the most of my time, and what I’ve realized is that the first step here needs to be mindfulness. I need to be aware of what I am doing and not moving aimlessly through my days. I keep saying that starts … NOW, though, and then not changing anything. One step at a time. I guess recognizing my lack of mindfulness is the first step.

2. The yoga work/study ended up not working, unfortunately. The timing overlapped directly with Will’s nap, meaning I couldn’t take him with me after all and that I had to ask my sister Karen to come by every week to watch him while I was gone; and in addition to that I wound up having to schedule my entire day around what was supposed to (in my mind, anyway) be a one-hour commitment. I guess that’s just my life stage right now, though. I’m glad I gave it a chance, but it wasn’t worth it in the end. Since regular, weekly yoga is prohibitively expensive for us now I am going to have to focus a lot on my home practice — which, happily, will dovetail nicely with my emphasis on mindfulness this year. I do still plan to go to yoga classes, just not every week, and probably not nearly as often as I was hoping to. Sigh. Once the ten miler and potential half-marathon are over, I plan to put a lot more energy into my yoga practice. I may not be able to get into some of the more advanced poses I want to be able to do, but I am really missing the mental benefits (and the deep stretch!) that I enjoyed when I was practicing more regularly.

3. I just saw this on Pinterest:

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(click to enlarge)

(source)

Look what #1 is — heh. Mindfulness. Reading these kinds of infographics is very affirming, because these are habits I try to cultivate and maintain and it’s good to see concrete evidence of the ways in which they pay off. In a lot of ways, I feel very happy these days.

4. I have a lot of updates on previous posts that I want to write — about dressing as a stay-at-home mom, about introversion vs. extroversion and where I fall on the spectrum, mindfulness and happiness in general, and about more of my natural living merit badges — but I want to watch another episode of Downton Abbey, so it’ll have to wait. (We rented season one from the library. Obsessed.)

5. Look at this picture from this morning. Steve took Will to Target while I was doing my long run (12 miles — my longest distance yet!).

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I know. Not that I’m biased or anything, but I think he’s basically the cutest baby that ever was.

Happy weekend!

I think this is going to be a good year.

Last year I was all about setting intentions for the year — I didn’t want any concrete goals, I didn’t want to feel like I had to try and meet certain expectations when I knew my life was about to change completely come April. And I think I did a pretty good job! I mainly wanted to a) not go crazy in my new life, overanalyzing every last little thing Will did and globalizing every missed nap or bad mood, and b) find a way to maintain my fitness and activity levels post-baby. And considering I ran eight miles this morning at around a 9:20 pace, I am feeling good about the latter in particular today.

But all that’s old news. It’s 2013. New Year’s Day is, I think, my favorite holiday. I love the feeling of a fresh start, and I usually try to imbue the day with some symbolism and meaning — a yoga practice, a delicious meal, doing something that sort of symbolizes how I want to approach the year to come. I actually didn’t really do much of that this year (no yoga, no run, no indulgent home-cooked meal [we had lentils and rice, virtuous but not so exciting], no symbolic purge of unneeded possessions) but hopefully I’m still set up for a good year ahead.

So 2012 was all about intentions. I think I am ready for some actual goals. I love a good goal to give me something to work toward, and this year I figured I would divide up my goals into a few different categories — spiritual, home, kitchen, wellness, and self.

spiritual: Complete the read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan I’ve been working on, by December 1, 2013.

home: Transition away from using toxic cleaners. Purge unnecessary possessions (asking myself if it’s useful or beautiful) so that we don’t feel overrun with stuff in a little house. Ruthlessly organize my bedroom. Figure out how to organize baby/toddler toys and books.

kitchen: Start cooking with dried beans rather than canned beans. Can my own tomatoes (and chicken stock, and jam without refined sugar, and chili, and pickles …). Bake bread regularly. I might even render lard!

wellness: Complete the 10 miler in March. Learn how to do a headstand. Reclaim my abdominal muscles through a combination of yoga and home strength training. Attend at least one yoga workshop.

self: Read at least ten books. Use my time wisely, mindfully and efficiently. Remember how my everyday actions will help me — or not help me — be who I want to be.

Whew! Some of these are, of course, really more intentions than goals, and they’re not very specific or measurable (how will I measure how efficiently I’m using my time?). But my overall goal, and the thing I want all of these smaller goals to work toward, is to get into a flow state. I want to feel settled. I want my house to run like a well-oiled machine, to be in a rhythm of life. A lot of the things I want to be doing — like cooking with dried beans instead of canned, getting (and keeping) myself organized, using my time wisely — require me to plan ahead more. I’ve never been great about planning ahead and I want 2013 to be the year where that stops being weird and uncomfortable. I want it to be second nature. What I ultimately I want is, as Gretchen Rubin did too, to be happier at home.

I learned in 2012 that happiness, like yoga, is both a practice and a discipline. Meeting the above goals will, I hope, bring me closer to that flow state, and help me to be happier at home, in both small ways and profound. Home, by the way, being both my actual physical house … and also my spiritual home, my physical body, my self.

And because this post hasn’t had any pictures yet …

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Will loves his new Little People Nativity!

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to 2013.

 

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