Same struggle, different day

My calendar is pretty empty this week.  One tutoring session last night, Bible study tomorrow, and a trip to see the grand baby on Friday.   Not a lot for someone who used to have trouble finding time to meet a friend for coffee.  I should be happy, right?

I am, kind of.  But we always want what we don’t have.  Last year when I was working long days, single-parenting, and pondering a move, I longed for days like these when I could still be in my pajamas at 10:30 in the morning.  I dreamt of sipping tea and blogging with the dog at my feet.  And, ok, I am not hating this moment — my toes are tucked under his warm belly; I can feel it rise and fall. But, guess what I did first thing this morning — applied for two more jobs.

Don’t laugh.

Ok, laugh.

I have lost track of how many jobs I have applied for.  Did you know that I can see myself as an administrative assistant, a tutor, an academic advisor, a Bridge Program director, and an editor?  When I tell my husband about the positions I am applying for, he is very gracious.  He says things like, “You would love that position,” or, “I could see you doing that.”  But then, a few minutes later, he says something like, “You know, I am completely content with you not working.  You really need to pay attention to your health.  I think full-time is too much.”

I’ve got a winner, don’t I? He sees that I really want to be able to do some of the things that have fed me over the years, and he also sees my limitations.  Even when I don’t want to see them.

But, come on, maybe I really could still direct a program for provisionally admitted students at the University of Michigan.  I won’t know unless I try.  And maybe they won’t even call me anyway.  And if they call, I can at least go in for an interview, right?

I say all this as I sit in pajamas and a hoodie — the hood pulled over my head, wearing glasses because my eyes hurt too much today for contacts. But maybe if I had to get up and go to work I would feel better, right?

That’s the unanswered question.  So, I continue to ask it.  I continue to fill out job applications like that is my job. And I continue to tutor.

Last night I met with a high school freshman and his little sister, a seventh grader.  They are children of Indian heritage whose parents’ first language is not English.  They have high aspirations — big goals.  So together we worked through test prep and grammar games.  We struggled and laughed together.

I got home and was working on my puzzle when a different high school freshman, another son of Indian parents, messaged me in a panic.  The assignment we poured over on Saturday is all wrong.  It is 9:30pm. Is it too late to help him re-work it before his presentation tomorrow.  The messages went back and forth until midnight. Poor kid had himself all stressed out.  But the stakes, for him, are high.  He, too, has big goals.

If I’d had to get up this morning to go direct a program at the university, I would’ve been in bed by 8:00.  The kid would find someone else.  I would have other kids to interact with, too.  But right now, we have each other.

I know.  I see it.  You don’t have to tell me. My husband is not the only one who sees my need to do the things that feed me while also seeing my limitations.  He’s allowing me to interact with students and stay in pajamas until 10:30am (ok, it’s 11:00 now).

He’s answering my prayers and I am still submitting my requests.  It’s ok.  He gets me.  He understands that I am used to doing so much more.  He knows that it is hard for me to rest, hard for me to be still, hard to trust that He’s got our situation under control.

So, I’m sitting here blogging, and my husband sends me a text.  He’s sitting in chapel and hears 1 Samuel 2:2.  He says it’s a comfort to him this morning.

“There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you;

there is no rock like our God.”

No one else understands my needs before I ask.  No one else knows the plans He has for me, plans to help me and not to harm me.  No one else is holding me in the palm of His hand.

Sigh.

Ok, no more job applications today.  I’m gonna go work on my puzzle.

Adjusting the Routine

I haven’t been finding time to get to my blog.  Remember back in the old days when I wrote every day? When I rolled out of bed each morning, brewed myself a cup of tea, did my Bible study, then blogged?  If you can believe it, those days seem like a distant memory.  And yet, I have only been in the house by the river for seven months.

I remember my husband saying, when I had only been here for a month or so, that routines are a great way to acclimate during a transition.  I clung to my routines!  And, you know, even though life has transitioned again a bit, I have clung to many of those routines.

I still have my parade of beverages most mornings. Back in December, I did the Ultra-Simple diet, which I can now tell you started a period of time where I was almost symptom-free.  The Ultra-Simple diet included starting the day with the juice of half a lemon in hot water, a cup of green tea, and a smoothie.  I still drink all three most mornings.  In fact, I’m drinking them right now.

I still make it to the gym or do Pilates at home most days.  One of the things I have learned about auto-immune disease is that movement is crucial to well-being.  I spend a lot of time every week tending to my body.  Back when I was in middle school,  high school, and even college, I spent hours in front of the mirror trying to get my face and my hair just right. My main goal then was to look good.  Last night I spent a hour at hot yoga stretching my muscles. My main goal right now is to feel good.

I still do my Bible study more days than not.  In fact, this morning I noticed I only had two more blank pages in the Sermon on the Mount study.  My anxiety rose just a little bit because I don’t know what the battalion will choose to study next, but then I remembered that I am still working through the other book on ten weeks of prayer — it is taking me much longer than ten weeks.  My Bible study centers me, reminds me what is important, and begins my day with truth.

I still meet with my battalion once a week — my group of ladies that come through rain, snow, sleet, and hail every Wednesday morning to spend two hours studying God’s word.  These women are at the heart of my Ann Arbor community.

My routine has been a comfort.  Especially in the midst of change.

What change?  I am working more.  On average I tutor half a dozen students every week.  I may have to start blogging about my students — they are amazing.  I have a sixth grade girl who continues to amaze me as we work through vocabulary, literary terms, grammar, and analysis.  I have a 40-something RN who is studying to become a nurse practitioner; she struggles with academic language, but not with learning. I tell her something once and she has it.  I have two high school freshmen — one girl who would rather eat than study and one boy who would rather study than eat. I have twin sisters whose similarities end in their appearance- — everything else about them is different.  I have a single mom who never graduated from high school and is now enrolled in community college and working on a degree in criminal justice.  I meet them in their homes, in libraries, and in Starbucks.  I read their writing online and respond via email, Googledocs, and Microsoft Word.  This is taking a chunk of my time, but perhaps you can tell that I love every minute of it.

So, with every change comes an ex-change. Sadly, the one exchange I have noticed is that I am not finding as much time to blog.  However, I am gathering lots of material.  So, more blog posts will be coming. All in due time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

A break in the routine, re-visit

On Monday, I wrote about our recent cultural transition to social distancing in my post, Time Out. This post from January 2015, explores another time that I made a big transition.

My blender stopped working this morning. I think it got jealous of all the other items that have been leaving my house via the Minimalist Challenge and wanted to join them. It’s going to get its wish.

I filled the blender with all my healthy ingredients — almond milk, cashew butter, banana, etc. — then pressed the button that usually makes it whir and blend. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.  This happened once last week, but I walked away, came back a few minutes later, and it miraculously worked. Not today. I walked away with the rest of the parade of beverages, did my Bible study, then came back. Still nothing.

Since I moved to Ann Arbor, I have embraced routines. Ok, let me honest, for my whole life, I have embraced routines. I like repetition. I like order. I like predictability. So, I usually go through the same motions each day — smoothie, tea, devotions, writing, exercise, etc.

My husband, a teacher turned therapist turned pastor turned dean of students, told me shortly after I moved here that “routines are one of the best ways to manage a transition.” I am in the middle of a pretty significant transition — moving from working full time to not working, moving from Missouri to Michigan, moving from city living to campus living.

We all spend our lives in transition, don’t we? We transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood to middle age to old age. We transition from single to married and perhaps back to single again. We transition from summer to fall to winter to spring. We are always in transition. Perhaps that is why we crave routine.

In the past week or so I have heard many people say, fresh from the holidays, “I am looking forward to getting back to my routine.” Our days have beginnings, middles, and ends that are largely very repetitive. We like that. So what happens when something happens to disrupt our routine?

We sleep through our alarm. The power goes out. The basement floods. We lose our job. We get sick. Someone dies. Our blender stops working. 

It’s a disruption. We have to stop in the middle of that beloved routine of ours and regroup. When we sleep through the alarm, we have to establish new priorities — shower or no shower? breakfast or no breakfast? notify the people who are waiting for us or break the speed limit to get there on time? When we lose our job, we have to reevaluate life and make some choices — find a new job? move to a new town? go back to school?

Our blender stops working and we have to decide what in the world are we going to eat for breakfast.

This morning I didn’t want to stop in the middle of my routine. I was already a little tight on time. I didn’t have a backup plan for something healthy to eat. And, guys, all the stuff was already in the blender! So what did I do? I kept moving for a bit. I went to my office and drank my other beverages, but without the smoothie, they were out of order!!!  This ruffled me a little, but I pressed on. I got through my morning email-checking and devotion-reading and checked the clock. I had to leave soon if I was going to meet my friend for a Pilates class. Should I make a bowl of oatmeal? grab a Kind bar? I thought about it as I got dressed, washed my face, and put in my contacts. I walked back into the kitchen and pressed the button on the blender one more time. Nothing. Sigh. I couldn’t just leave all those precious ingredients sitting in the blender on the countertop, so I poured them into a bowl, mashed the banana with a fork, stirred and swished as blender-like as I could, and ate that stuff with a spoon. Bam. Problem solved.

I wish all disruptions were this easy to manage, don’t you? This small disruption didn’t shape the rest of my day or the rest of my week, but many disruptions do. Some disruptions change our lives forever — an unexpected illness, a death, a global pandemic. No amount of routine can prevent such disruptions or prepare us for their impact. So, we may all of a sudden find ourselves reeling, desperately searching for something to hold onto.

When I find myself in such a position — feeling out of control and a little terrified, I return to routines — regular wake up and bed times, daily exercise, consistent food choices, and regular Bible reading and prayer.

Today, as I anticipate unprecedented uncertainty, I am thankful for my routines. Last night I set up my home office in preparation for telecommuting which begins today and lasts for the foreseeable future. More now than ever, I will return to my routines. I’ll get up at the same time, read my Bible, write my pages, practice yoga, take a shower, eat breakfast, and report to work on time just as I have been doing. Over the years, I’ve found that patterns like these provide the structure that anchors me.

Routines remind me that as sure as the sun rises each day, so does God remain the same. His mercies are new every morning.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

Show me your ways, O Lord

Years ago I learned that if I am in regular daily Bible study God will speak through His Word directly into my life.  It’s such a powerful experience.  I can’t imagine why I would stray from this discipline knowing that this is how He reaches me.  But over and over in my life I have decided that other things were more important — sleep, work, reading novels, time with family, games on my phone.  It’s embarrassing, actually, to admit they I can so easily be distracted.  But I can.

So, after waking this morning, drinking two tablespoons of organic olive oil mixed with the juice of one organic lemon, doing the prescribed twenty minutes of Pilates, drinking the juice of the other half of the lemon mixed with hot water, downing the shake mix stuff blended with water and a banana, taking probiotics, vitamins, and my regular medications, drinking one cup of green tea with 56 grams of caffeine (yay!!), chopping tons of vegetables and making vegetable broth, cooking short grain brown rice according to specifications, washing all the dishes, adding to my compost pile, showering, and dressing, I sat down to do my Bible study.

I read Psalm 25, the reading for the day, To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust…Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths…He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.  All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness…

Then I read the accompanying study in the book I am using at the moment, Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer.  The whole devotion was meaningful, but the last portion is what got me: “We encounter God’s challenge as He demands: Will you allow Me to dramatically alter your ways to teach you My own?” 

Well, yeah.  I think You stepped right in and altered them without waiting for me to hem and haw and reply.  You moved me to a different state, took me out of my job, and gave me a much smaller, more manageable home. You provided a new, slower lifestyle, opportunity to evaluate and reflect, and new friends to join me on my journey.  You hit the reset button on my life!  And now, this week, You are challenging me to look at my health in a different way, to take some chances, to be obedient to a regimen. It’s a little uncomfortable, a little scary.   It’s a dramatic alteration, after many other dramatic alterations.

So I am going to allow You?  We’ve been over this: You are God, I am not.  Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths.

“for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.”

Psalm 25: 5

My journey

Have you ever plotted your life journey on a map?

I’ve done it a couple of times in the classroom.  My students and I were once reading a book about a girl who had lived all over the country with her job-hopping aunt.  We plotted her life, and then I plotted mine via GoogleMaps to show them the journey.

My St. Louis, Missouri students always thought I was making up the fact that I grew up in St. Louis, Michigan and that I went to St. Louis High School.  So, I always had to prove to them that it did exist.

This morning I was reading about the travels of Paul, Silas, and Timothy.  My Bible study had me combing through Acts to plot a portion of their journey on a Biblical map.  It’s pretty incredible, actually.  Their commitment to share the Gospel had them trekking all over the countryside with no help from Expedia or Hotwire.  And, often, they were chased out of town by a violent mob, or worse, tossed in the slammer for a while.

I wouldn’t say my journey has been that dramatic. I am going to try to share a link to a map I created this morning that shows all the places I have lived in my just under fifty years*.  There are twelve points on the map representing the different towns/cities I have lived in.  Within those cities and towns I have lived in multiple houses.

The point of the Bible study was to look at how God had nudged or shoved each of us through our decisions.  How he had orchestrated my life journey. So, I got a bit introspective.  I got to thinking that any little change along the way could have reconfigured my whole life.  Have you ever thought about that?

What if my parents had not divorced, and we had moved with my dad to Indiana? How might my life be different?

What if I hadn’t transferred from Michigan State to Concordia so long ago?

What if my husband and I had not resigned our positions and moved to be closer to our son?

What if we had chosen to not go to the Seminary with three school-aged children?

What if he had not accepted this call back to Michigan?

So much would be different!  With any of those choices or so many other decisions, the trajectory would have been altered dramatically!

But, God allowed this journey.  He placed me in a loving family that has now stretched from coast to coast. He gave me lifelong friends from each location along the way.  He shaped me through my experiences as a student, a teacher, a mother, a wife. He has led us from one step through the next, all the while shielding and protecting us.

And through all the moves and transitions in my life, I (and you) have been sitting right in the palm of His hand.  It is mind-boggling. I wouldn’t change one step.

Psalm 20:24

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord…

* http://www.mapcustomizer.com/map/klrlifemap

Walking

I love running.  I didn’t always.  It grows on you.

In my middle school and high school years the only thing I loved about running was when it was over.

But in college, when I was battling an eating disorder, I began to tap into the benefits of running — stress reduction, calorie burning, cardio-vascular health.   I found another benefit when I began to date my future husband.  We ran together.  On our after-school runs (we were both teachers), we would talk and laugh while letting go of the stress from the day, pounding out the miles.

Although I took a break from running while we were raising our children, I started up again when we moved to the seminary.  Again, I found it useful for exercise, stress-busting, and ultimately, bonding with my daughter and many students.  In fact, I was able to run two half-marathons and many 5k races before I had to sideline myself due to fatigue and pain.

Over the years I have connected with Scripture that uses running analogies, ‘they will run and not grow weary’ (Isaiah 40:31), ‘run that you may obtain the prize’ (I Cor. 9:24), ‘let us run with endurance the race marked out for us’ (Hebrews 12:1).  These were images I could relate to.  Running and not getting tired, running and winning a prize, running a race that had been chosen for me.

But to be honest, as you know I have to be, running was part of that soldier mentality that believed that I could do all things through me because of my strength. Yeah, that’s not really scripture.  I am aware.

Probably the knowledge that running would no longer be part of my daily routine was one of the first blows toward destroying that self-reliant attitude that could keep God on the sidelines.  That blow hit hard.  Running had become part of my identity.  I was the ‘teacher who ran’, the ‘mom who ran’, the girl whose heart rate and blood pressure were amazingly low, ‘because she ran’.

Transitioning to walking was a blow.  But ultimately it was the beginning of a slow-down that has changed my entire pace of life, of thinking, of being.

I used to rush to work, rush home, hurry to change so I could run, hurry home so I could make dinner, quickly wash the dishes, take a few minutes to straighten the house, make sure the kids had everything they needed, ‘sleep fast’, as my dad would say, and get up to do it all over again.  I was rushing so much that I didn’t really take time to feel, or process how anyone else was feeling.

I don’t rush very much any more.  I roll out of bed, stumble through my routine, work up to doing Pilates, saunter out for a walk, stop to talk to people in my path, write about my experiences, think, read, feel, rest, sleep. Rinse, repeat. Nothing happens very quickly, but plenty happens.

I have been thankful for this transition, while at the same time being a little sad about it. I mean, I was rocking the running routine.  Even if I was leaving the people that I care about in the dust.

At the moment, I’ve got nothing but time.  So, I am walking.  And this morning, in my Bible study, I was challenged by Paul, Silas, and Timothy to “walk in a manner worthy of God” I Thes. 2: 12. I was reminded that God Himself walked in the Garden of Eden, that Enoch walked with God, and Noah walked with God.  Maybe walking isn’t so bad.  I mean, I have noticed already, that I am not alone.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and

walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…

Ephesians 5:1-2

My Life is a [fairly] open book

My Life Story

Chapter 1: The forceps delivery should have been the first clue. Or, I always gotta try to make things just a little more difficult.

Chapter 2: Life with my my brothers, and our older, more mature sister.  Or, man, I wish I was as cool as she is, but I guess these guys are ok. 

Chapter 3: School: my comfort zone. Or, the beginning of doing and achieving as a way to self-acceptance. 

Chapter 4: The neighborhood. Or, Lord of the Flies meets Gilligan’s Island meets Sesame Street.

Chapter 5: Divorce disrupts. Or, Commence with the tumultuous teens. Or, How to torture a stepfather.  Or, Could you have done this when I wasn’t in puberty??

Chapter 6: Middle School: the petri dish of hormones. Or, star student meets klutzy adolescent and cries for three years. 

Chapter 7: High School: oh, the drama! Or, Middle School, part 2. 

Chapter 8: A couple of colleges. Or, Getting lost at the university, and finding the small college. Or, Eating Disorders: Not recommended for humans. 

Chapter 9: I love to work! Or, From babysitting to McDonald’s to group homes to classrooms and beyond. 

Chapter 10: Love and marriage: finding my handsome prince!   Or, It started with a lemon drop. 

Chapter 11: Learning to be a teacher. Or, The Know-it-all discovers she doesn’t know it all. 

Chapter 12: Parenthood: the early years. Or, The Know-it-all discovers she doesn’t know it all, part 2. 

Chapter 13: Graduate School? At my age? Or, Finding my Passion.  Or, Really, I get to do this?

Chapter 14: We’re leaving Michigan?! Or, Adventure at Seminary! Or, Traumatizing the Children! Or, Life in the Armpit! Or, Seriously, St. Louis is really this humid all the time? 

Chapter 15: The Sugar-momma years. Or, The teaching degree finally pays off. Or, From Public High School to Parochial High School. Or, Home at Last!

Chapter 16: Parenthood 2.0: teenagers.  Or, I admit it; I know nothing!

Chapter 17: Sending them off. Or, They make me so proud! Or, I miss them so much! Or, My children/My friends. 

Chapter 17: Illness: Redefining Life.  Or, Well, this sucks.  Or, Slowing down.  Or, Ok, Ok, I hear you!

Chapter 18: Back to Michigan?! Or, Really? Or, Going Home! Or, Starting over? At our age? 

Chapter 19 ___________________

 

The next chapter?  No idea.  Perhaps I will call the next chapter, “Being Still.”  But you never know, maybe this time of being still will yield something far more title-worthy.  That’s how life works.  As you enter a chapter, you think you know where it’s going, but the Author often has often added plot twists.  As I enter this chapter, I am excited, and anxious. I feel like I am climbing the initial hill on a roller coaster…it’s quiet and calm right now, but I hear a subtle clicking that reminds me that a ride is coming! 

The movers come in four days.  Am I ready? I doubt it.  But, I hear a voice saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  He is the author.  He knows what is coming.  He has written the rest of the story.  I hear it has a good ending.