Reality

I used to get frustrated with students who sat in the writing lab staring at a blank screen.  

Guess what I have been doing for almost an hour. 

Yup. 

Busted. 

I’m sitting here in my pajamas, realizing that my cup of tea is almost empty and I have nothing to say. 

My students prayed for this moment. 

Chester is asleep under my desk.  My husband has left for work.  The remaining daughter is into her second hour of productivity. And here I sit. 

I mean, I have been a little productive.  I did send a couple of emails.  I did clear a level on Candy Crush that had been giving me trouble.  Don’t judge.  

I want to start writing about my options for ‘what’s next’, but I am committed to not discussing that at least until September.  And it’s only August 26! September 1 is Labor Day, so I can’t very well discuss career options or work on Labor Day!  So I am going to have to find something to write about between now and September 2.  That is seven whole posts!!!!!!!

Being still is hard!!!  

Of course I have to admit that I’m not just sitting in my pajamas playing Candy Crush all day.  I have managed to keep up on the laundry, cook a few meals, keep the house relatively orderly, go for walks, and meet new people every day.  

And I also have to grudgingly admit that even that has worn me out.  I woke up feeling not great today, which tells me I have to take extra care to rest.  And that makes me a bit angry.  I want to be able to do things.  I had big dreams of going to quaint coffee shops to write, of exploring Ann Arbor, of going on adventures.  I was hoping for endless possibilities. 

But today, I think the reason it’s difficult to write is that reality is jumping up and down in front of me waving its arms.  “Hey, Kristin, remember me?  Reality?  I am the knowledge that you have days like today where you struggle to get out of bed, your joints ache, you are exhausted, and you want to cry.  Do you really think you can explore ‘what’s next’ with me standing right here?” 

Hey, Reality, you suck.  

But, Reality is, after all, reality.  I do have days like this.  I won’t crawl back into bed, but I will talk myself into doing Pilates, into going for a walk, into taking a break and maybe even a nap.  I will look at the people in front of me and be thankful that I have this grace period to breathe and fully evaluate reality.  

Only when I fully grasp my new reality will I be able to see what God has next for me.  

Psalm 19:21

Many are the plans in [my] heart, 

but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

 

Details, details, details

Today is a detail day — schedule the oil change, get the groceries,  call the university, fold the laundry, etc.  I have lots to do…actually lots to do all week long. 

These details were a bit overwhelming last night when we had just returned from dropping off the baby at college eight hours away.  And, I’m a little irritated at the moment that I can’t just lie around and mope.  Already I am laughing at myself. 

It’s all by God’s design isn’t it?  He knew in advance that I would be a little torn up today — worrying, grieving, overthinking — so he made sure my plate was full for a bit.  It’s all good stuff — family visiting tonight through Friday, an appointment with a specialist, some cooking, some cleaning, and definitely some writing.  

I will find some time in the midst of the details to grieve a little, to wallow a little, to mope a little.  But, I will have to wipe the tears and drag myself out of bed to get a few things done.  

After all, one daughter is still here!  In fact, she greeted us last night when we returned from our trip with a warm dinner and lots of energy!  I couldn’t bring myself to write a grocery list, but she could.  I was overwhelmed at the thought of laundry, but she had it started!  God’s design.  He knew that if they were all gone at once, I would be overcome by loneliness.  He’s easing me into the empty nest.  

My niece is coming to visit tonight, bringing more energy into our home.  Two twenty-one year olds full of possibility and promise — they will take a road trip tomorrow!  What fun! They will leave me here to write, think, rest, and grieve for a couple of days, then they will bring their energy back.  

Do you see that detail?  God was setting up the details ahead of time, taking care of me, knowing exactly what I needed.  He knew I needed to do for a little while and then be for a little while.  He knew I needed people in my house for a while.  He knew what I needed before I even asked.  He’s got August taken care of, so that I can face September.  He’s always looking out for me, and for you. 

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer;  

my god is my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 

Psalm 18:2

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, revisit

On Monday (August 26, 2019) I wrote that Change is Constant. Since then, even more change has happened in my everyday life. I’ve unearthed this post first written in August 2014 to remind myself of all the changes we’ve lived through and been changed by as a family — to remind myself that change brings the potential for transformation.

On December 21, 1989, when my husband proposed to me, he said, “Things are going to get busy for a while.”  He wasn’t kidding.  

In the last 25 years we have lived in eleven different homes, parented four children (giving birth to three within three years!), earned three Master’s degrees, taught hundreds of students, driven thousands of miles, and attended dozens of churches. Things have indeed been busy! 

We have experienced lots of change–as individuals, and as a family. At first, I braced myself for change and tried to ‘get through’ it, but I’ve come to realize that change is our constant and bracing myself all the time just leaves me exhausted. 

Although steeling myself against change is still my initial reaction, I’ve learned that when I lean in, change goes more smoothly. It can even be pleasant — invigorating.

In fact, early in our marriage, my husband really enjoyed reorganizing all the furniture in the house. He would get an idea to rotate all the bedrooms — all in one day!  The master bedroom would become the kids’ dorm.  The girls’ room would become the den.  It would be an all-day project. I know it sounds like lots of work, but we always liked the outcome — a fresh start, a new perspective. 

When the kids were in elementary school, we spent many hours investigating and discussing before we decided to move them from a parochial to a public school. One school was not better than the other, but they were very different. It was a huge change. My husband and I felt it was the right decision, so we acted. It was a huge transition for the kids; you’d have to ask them how they feel about that choice now. Each would probably answer differently, especially since the very next year, we not only switched their schools again, we moved them to an entirely different state! A different time zone!  A different — sweatier –climate! 

That move meant not only a change in school, but a change from the only church they had ever known — where they were all born, rocked, sung to, cuddled. We all looked shell-shocked for a couple of years. It was a lot of change.  

While there, in Missouri, we made so many deep friendships. I would not trade that time for anything. But, at times, it was like living through a deployment. We encountered a new culture, we soldiered through difficulties, we sustained some injuries, and we’ve never been the same.

Change changes us.  

I am not the person I was on December 21, 1989. Thank goodness!!  Neither is my husband.  Thank goodness!! All of this busy-ness, all of these changes, have transformed us.  

When we were at one of our first congregations, with all our babies, a dear friend said, “I see you guys as a diamond in the rough–the outside is being chiseled away to reveal that beautiful inside.”  I may have been a little offended at the moment, but I now treasure the fact that she saw some potential under the rough exterior that we wore back in our twenties.  

I’d like to think that the changes we have endured have chiseled away some stubbornness, some judgmental attitudes, some close-mindedness, but we aren’t done yet. Change is our constant. And, even today, as I find myself in the midst of great change, I lean in. I know that these changes, too, will be transformative, and I am not afraid.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

2 Cor 4:16

Going with the flow

Imagine me lying on an inflatable raft and floating down a river on a beautiful Michigan day.  That is how life has been the last couple of days.  With this full house, I have refrained from creating my everyday to-do list. And I have been trying something different — going with the flow. 

Going with the flow has meant staying up until 1:00 am or later — two nights in a row.  It has meant that yesterday I woke up at 10:20 am!  I have written my blog in the middle of the night.  I have eaten a warm kale, cilantro, black bean salad created by one daughter and black bean (gluten-free) brownies created by the other daughter.  I have gone on a walk with Chester, started a Grisham book, and watched Sabrina. I took a walk on campus which equated to a walk down memory lane.  

Sounds pretty lovely, doesn’t it? So, I wonder if I will allow myself to go with the flow a little more often. 

This goes back to my doing v. being still theme.  I am trying to explore the fact that doing and being still do not have to be in opposition.  The two can co-exist.  In fact, in all my floating around yesterday, I did get my migraine-suffering daughter in to see an acupuncturist and also discovered that two miles from our new home is the leading migraine headache clinic in the nation.  Yes, while floating, we got her a comprehensive appointment for next week. 

But I didn’t really accomplish anything else.  This is new for me, the one who has measured my value by the number of things I get done and how well I do them.  It is new for me to see the overgrown flower bed and acknowledge that I want to do something to it without jumping right up and tearing out the weeds right away.  It is new for me to be comfortable co-existing with the unfinished, unsettled, unpolished.  

But floating is nice.  See how sparkly the water is?  Hear the wind blowing?  

Right now I am sitting in my adirondack chair on my porch, looking at the scene in the photo above.  Coffee was just delivered to me. Tomorrow we pack up our daughter to move to college, but today I am going to continue to float.  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

Matthew 11:28

 

 

 

“Oops!… I Did It Again”*

Part of the work of the next few months is a re-setting of my mind because of the re-setting that has happened in my body.  For most of my adult life I have gone until I can’t go ‘no more’.  Then I collapse, and get up the next day and start over.  That isn’t going to work any more.

My experience with my new body (I will refrain from speaking for all people with autoimmune disease) is that I have to be preventative.  I eat certain foods so that I won’t have a flare.  I take certain vitamins and supplements so that my body will respond better to stress.  I do Pilates to help my body maintain flexibility.  I rest midday so that I can go out for dinner later.  I have to anticipate the effects of my actions on my body.

But I get amnesia.

I had a pretty lousy flare in April/May.  This isn’t too surprising since I was preparing for a move, finishing a school year, anticipating one daughter’s high school graduation and the other daughter’s college graduation, saying goodbye to many friends, etc.  Stressors incite flares.  Life, even ordinary life, is stressful.  April and May were a bit over the top.

June and July were lovely.  I was at home, on my own pace, packing a box or two a day, resting at various times throughout the day, eating well, exercising well, reading, doing puzzles, and seeing friends.

So I forgot what happens when I do too much.

I think I wanted to believe that it wouldn’t happen again.  I mean, we were in the physical process of moving for about ten days and I felt fine.  When I got tired, I took a little break.  On the actual move day, I had to take a few more breaks than usual, but still, no flare.

Ten days in Ann Arbor, unpacking, socializing, running errands, taking breaks, exercising, and I was feeling just fine.  In fact, so fine, that I felt like the old me!

So, on Wednesday, when I went out for my walk with Chester, I actually ran a bit.   I haven’t run in quite a while.  And it felt great.  I was cautious.  But, I ran.  

Then on Thursday, I woke up, wrote my blog, drank my tea, and then pretended I was the old me for about two hours — cleaned and vacuumed out the car, washed three windows inside and out, vacuumed our little house front to back, and Swiffered the kitchen and dining room.

And then it happened.

It wasn’t like my batteries wore down or something.  It was like someone unplugged me.  I hit the bed and knew I had gone too far.  It wasn’t even noon.

We had a guest arriving at 1.  My husband wanted me to meet some staff members at 4:30.  And a new friend was coming in the evening to learn the ropes of Chester-sitting so that we can go on a trip this weekend.

Yes, you read that right.  We are going on a trip this weekend.  Our oldest is getting his MBA tomorrow in Cincinnati and we are moving our daughter from Chicago to Ann Arbor on Sunday.

And I’m unplugged.

When I woke this morning, I discovered that my reserve battery had charged a little in my sleep, so I tidied the guest room for the overnight guest who is coming on Sunday. (Are you hearing all this?) And re-made the bed for our friend who is staying with Chester.

I’m not getting it, am I?

Do I really need another smack-down in order to learn how to pace myself and take breaks?  Why is it that doing is so satisfying to me?  Why am I not content with being? 

I believe I have received grace this morning, because I don’t feel as poorly as I did last evening.  So, I am going to slow down, acknowledge that God is God and I am not.  Do a little Pilates.  Breathe.  Put my feet up.  Read.  Drink my kale-berry-banana-flax smoothie.  And try, really try, to be still. 

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10.

 

 

 

 

*Spears, Brittney.  “Oops!… I Did It Again.” Oops!…I Did It Again. Jive, 2000.

(This citation is for my former students who know that you have to give credit where credit is due.)

 

 

 

 

 

I come for healing, Re-visit

Today is Move-in Day at this place we call home. Thirty-four years ago, I was moving in as a student; just over five years ago, I moved in as the wife of the Dean of Students. Both times I’m shown up on this campus, I’ve been just a bit broken, and both times this space has provided the time, the resources, and the community in which I find healing. I wrote this post in on August 3, 2014, when I thought my biggest problem was my health. As I revisit it today, I wonder at God’s ability to see the bigger issues and provide a space for me to be held through difficulties yet unknown to me.

Nestled beside the Huron River is a small school — Concordia University. (You can see the chapel amid the trees in the photo.) The school was started in the 1960s by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, mainly to prepare young people for service in the church. The chapel sits in the heart of its campus. Christ is at the heart of its mission.  

And we get to be here! My husband is the Dean of Students, so we live right on campus as part of the community. This beautiful scene is in my backyard!

I have lived here before, as a student, back in the ’80s. The place is familiar, to be sure, but the experience is brand new. I came as a teenager before. Now, I come as an empty-nester. Big difference.  

One thing is the same, though. I am here to heal.  

This time I am coming to heal from several hectic years topped off with a diagnosis of autoimmune disease. Last time I came after an overwhelming freshman year of college topped off with an eating disorder. Both times, God intervened and brought me to this place to heal.

I still can’t explain what happened in 1985 — how I left a Big Ten university in the middle of Michigan to pay more at a small private college in Ann Arbor, but I know it saved my life — my physical and my spiritual life. It put me on a path to wellness. 

The other day, when I was walking along the Huron and glanced across to see the chapel, something clicked in my mind. Last year, we were not looking to move back to Michigan. My husband was not looking for a higher ed position. But God used his people to step into our situation and bring us here to Concordia. And, again, I am on a path to wellness.  

For over three years in the 1980s I felt held at Concordia while I sorted out the issues of my eating disorder. It was an emotionally chaotic time, to be sure, but I felt held — held by Christian friends who saw me, held by faculty who noticed and cared for me, held by the school nurse who pointed me toward help, and held, ultimately, by God.  

So, coming back to Concordia feels secure, safe, comforting. Again, I feel held.  I’ve only been here a week, but I feel at peace. Knowing the healing I experienced here in the ’80s gives me great hope. I am looking forward to healing again. I am believing God’s words through Jeremiah that “[God] will heal [me] and will let [me] enjoy abundant peace and security” Jeremiah 33:6.  

Certainly I don’t think this healing can only happen at Concordia. Or next to the Huron River. But I do believe that healing comes only through God. And that, for me, He has done that here at Concordia.  

I am here for healing. 

The River

Do you see that view?  I can see that every day on my walk with Chester.  It is just down the street at Gallup Park.  Although I am in a city, I can take a short walk and totally escape from people, pressures, reality.  This is where I get to live.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I miss St. Louis — my friends, my house, the smell of the brewery, Forest Park, LaFayette Square.  It will always be very dear to me.

But, you know, I think I am going to like Ann Arbor.  In the past week, as we have settled, I have begun to develop some routines — Pilates, morning tea, blogging, five minutes of stillness, and a daily walk by the Huron River.  This walk is a pause from reality.  Inside Gallup Park, I don’t notice the sounds of the city.  I am engulfed in the smell of water, flowers, freshness — pure Michigan.  I see ducks, geese, and such a wide variety of people doing exactly what I am doing — breathing.

I lose track of time.  I forget agendas.  I relax.  Guys, it’s like being still!

I can hear some grumblers saying, “I bet you won’t be walking there in January!”  Good point. I haven’t quite forgotten what Michigan winters are like.  They are cold, to be sure.  But I also remember that they are stunningly beautiful.  So, I wonder if I will still venture out, like a real Michigander —  clad in boots, parka, hat, and gloves — to see what this view looks like fifty degrees cooler.  I hope so!

In the mean time, I am going to continue my routine — Pilates, tea, blogging, five minutes of stillness, and my daily walk by the river.  Because I have noticed that there, He “extends peace to [me] like a river” Isaiah 66:12.

Being Still 0, Doing 1

It’s gonna take some time for me to learn how to be still.  I had a few small victories yesterday, but overall, I was pretty focused on accomplishing the tasks on my to-do list.  And, you guessed it, I skipped the part about being sad and crying over my losses.  

So, let’s focus on the victories first: ten minutes of Pilates (this really helps with my joint pain and flexibility), a one-hour walk beside the Huron River (simply beautiful), dinner with old friends, wine with new friends, Law and Order, and blogging.  To me, this all classifies as being still.  I am aware, however, that there are levels of stillness that I am not tapping into; I am not there yet.  It’s going to take some time. 

So, in the area of doing — I organized over one hundred books in the office, I cleared out half the boxes in our daughters’ room, I ran to the grocery store.  It always feels so good to me to have something tangible to demonstrate how I spent my day.  My husband came home for lunch and I was practically giddy with excitement when I showed him my progress; I was like a little child!  

It’s going to take some major shift for me to let go of doing and hold on to being.  I will give myself some slack because our truck arrived three days ago and it takes some doing to settle in.  But, I want to start today to practice being still.  And I think I mean lying down, awake, doing absolutely nothing.  I think I am going to try for five minutes.  No phone.  No Words with Friends. No book.  No TV.  No music.  Just stillness.  Five minutes.  I think that is what I can handle.  

Being the do-er that I am, I am not even going to pray during that time. Even prayer can become, for me, doing. So prayer can be on my checklist, but not part of my stillness.  I am telling you, I am one stubborn girl.  Change is going to have to be intentional.  

I think I have sent the message to myself and the people around me, chiefly my family, but also my students, that what I do, what you do, translates into value.  The more I do, the more value I have.  The more impressive my actions, the more impressive me.  

This flies in the face of everything I have learned about God, and more specifically Jesus.  He loves me.  Period.  He values me.  Period.  More than many sparrows.  This is not conditional love or value.  It is love and value that reflects His character, not my performance.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  Whoever believes. Period.  

That’s what my five minutes of stillness will be used for today.  I will be still and believe, for five minutes, that He is God, and that He loves and values me. Wanna join? 

 

 

 

The simple things, A Re-Visit

In July of 2014, I joined my husband in this little house by the river; I wrote this post that very week. Just shy of seven years later, we are going to move our things and ourselves to a different little house nearby. I’ll write more about that in the coming days, but before I do, I’m going to indulge in a little reminiscing; join me if you like.

Yes, we are living on campus.  Don’t worry; I think I am going to love it.  

When my husband moved to Ann Arbor one year ahead of me, in the fall of 2013, and I was still living in St. Louis, the university offered him a house on campus so that he wouldn’t have to purchase a home or rent an apartment before I joined him. It’s a simple little place — three bedrooms, one bath, kitchen/dining on one end, living room on the other. They put fresh paint and carpet throughout and temporarily furnished it for him. 

On our first visit, as my daughter and I walked through the place, I thought to myself, “this could work.” Moments later, she said out loud, “this is horrible.” It could be perspective.  

In St. Louis we owned a large two-story home with a finished basement — three lovely levels of living space that were perfect for a busy family with three teenagers. We loved it at the time that we purchased it, fresh off four years in seminary housing. Our kids each found their own space, and we spread out a bit. It was a lot to maintain, but I was healthy at that point, and we had a crew that could be enlisted to help.

However, over the last two years, as two have moved out and I have begun to deal with the pain and fatigue of autoimmune disease, it has become a challenge to maintain the house and the yard around it. In fact, before my husband was offered this position and we decided to move across the country, we were actually looking for a small place that was all on one level. That’s right  — we were looking for a place just like this!

Even better, the university does all the maintenance, so my husband can focus on his job. They do the yard work. They clear the snow. We get to choose what we spend our energy on. When I arrived on Sunday, I found that my husband had planted a small garden, so we can pick fresh tomatoes! When the movers brought our things yesterday, we discovered that our Adirondack chairs sit perfectly under the overhanging roof on the patio, so I can have my morning coffee outside with a view of this gorgeous campus.  

We were worried that everything wouldn’t fit, or that the things we brought might not work in this new place., but we’ve had surprise after surprise. Our bedroom furniture fits perfectly, even my grandma’s little chair. The guest bedroom houses all our daughters’ things while they are in transition. Our son’s futon fit in the office to provide a spot for overnight guests. I’ve got a reading corner complete with picture books for any children that may visit. And, best of all, my puzzle table found a home just outside the office.

My heavenly Father knew exactly what I needed, before I even asked him (Matthew 6).  This simple home is going to be very easy for me to maintain, so I will have energy to spend on the things that matter — meeting new friends, hanging out with my husband, and being still. 

Epilogue: I don’t think we imagined in 2014 that we would live in our little house by the river for seven years, but it turns out that God knew then what we did not, that He had provided a place of simplicity where we could focus on some deep work that He was preparing to do in us. This little house by the river has been a place of healing — more reminiscing on that later this week.

Expect the Unexpected

If today was any indication, living in Ann Arbor is going to be all about being still and expecting the unexpected. 

This,  my first day in Ann Arbor, was our 24th wedding anniversary.  My husband treated me to breakfast out at a quaint coffee shop near our new home.  A couple of eggs, some potatoes, and bacon joined a great cup of coffee to make me a very content wife.  We finished so that we could get back to the house to meet the movers who said they would arrive around 11:30 or noon.  While we were still in the car, the moving coordinator called to say it would be more like 1:00-1:30.  No problem, we would take the dog for a walk in the mean time. 

So, we enjoyed a leisurely walk near the river and returned in time to make a coffee run before the movers would arrive.  The second coffee shop of the day did not disappoint — excellent coffee and a delicious gluten-free brownie!  We got back to the house and received a call from the movers announcing that it would be another hour “or so.”  We decided to relax and rest until they got to there.  

While we were resting, one of my husband’s coworkers arrived with a cooler full of food — chicken, ribs, brisket, beans, veggies, and champagne — to help us celebrate our anniversary!  Since the movers had still not arrived, we invited them in to chat for a while. While we visited, the phone rang again. The movers had arrived at our destination, but were not able to maneuver the narrow drive back to our house.  They would have to reload our possessions onto a smaller truck tonight and deliver them tomorrow morning!  

So, we took another walk, on a different side of the river.  We returned home and ate some of the delicious food that had been delivered earlier and enjoyed chatting with one another.  

I forgot to mention that due to construction the power in our building had been out since early in the morning.  We had spent the whole day in the house with no TV, no Internet, and no lights.   We had spent the whole day talking to one another. 

We took the third walk of the day to pick up our mail.  We ran into people that my husband has been working with and chatted with them.  We returned home and talked some more. 

This day was nothing like i planned.  I expected that we would be directing movers and unloading boxes the entire day of our anniversary.  Instead, we spent the day sharing coffee, walks, and talks.  Am I disappointed?  Nope.  

One day when Jesus was teaching the masses, the disciples suggested that the people had been there long enough and that Jesus should send them away so that they could find themselves something to eat.  Jesus did something they didn’t expect.  He suggested that they feed the crowds themselves.  With five loaves and two fish, they were able to feed 5,000 people, with tons of food leftover.  They weren’t expecting that at all!  Were they disappointed?  Nope. 

Perhaps one of the lessons I will be learning this year is to be still enough to watch what God is doing instead of trying to do so much myself.  Because we weren’t busy with the move today, we had time to talk to several of my husband’s coworkers, but more importantly, we had time, after eleven months apart, to talk to one another on the anniversary of the day that we committed to walk together  “’til death do us part.”  I think I am going to like being here, being still here, that is. 

And tomorrow, the movers will come….or not.  I’m just going to watch and see what happens.