SEVEN GRATITUDES: life & death

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{Seven Gratitudes is a lovely link-up I participate in some Fridays with my dear friend, Leanna. Head over to her blog for wonderful lessons and beautiful, honest writing.}

This week, two people (that I know of) in this world committed suicide. One was someone I didn’t know, but have connections to his work, and the other was a friend from my youth.

I would never presume to decide what happened in the world to lead to their decision, nor would I attempt to judge what they were feeling in the last months, weeks and days of their lives.

So in my grief, in my lack of understanding, I pray for their families and friends, and I turn to gratitude, to the things that give me life today.

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  • My sons’ second violin lesson. I thought that I loved music, that it orchestrated and moved my life through every season, and when I had Eliot, I found out I’m not the only one. In fulfilling this dream, he’s coming alive.

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  • This garden. There is something really sacred about growing plants from seeds. It brings out a nurturing spirit, and I guarantee that if you invest in these little seedlings and watch them grow into adult plants, harvesting their produce for your table, you’ll learn something wonderful about the cycle of life.
  • The latest endorsement to my book, the day after having my first podcast interview with Steve Wiens, author of f Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life and Whole: Restoring What is Broken in Me, You, and the Entire World:
“Kaitlin Curtice is the kind of writer whose words carry you to spacious places where you can breathe again. When I read Glory Happening, I was in a frantic season of my life, hurried and harried and kind of lost. With each of Kaitlin’s stories and prayers, I was gently invited back to a place of rest and grace. If you can stand it, please sip this book. It’s too delicious to drink all in one gulp.”
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  • Easter (and everyday life) with this man. He’ll be starting a fellowship with the Carter Center this summer, and I can see the fruit of his hard work coming to life in a way that I always knew it would. He’s one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever known.
  • A moment with one of my co-workers at church in which he leaned into my life as an indigenous woman and spoke to me about the whiteness of the church, about how, after all these years, something must change. In that moment, he honored the lives of people of color and our place in this world and in the church.

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  • Potawatomi culture and ceremonial practice. I ordered sweetgrass and ceremonial tobacco this week, and in honoring my own culture, I am finding a space with God that helps me slow down, breathe easier, and find true, sacred life in all spaces. I need that in the face of difficulty, when I am hungry for a moment of grace.
  • Sarah Bessey and Nish Weiseth, who both took over Twitter this week to point out the way female writers are treated in our world today (#ThingsFemaleWritersHear) and the reality that many women of color are not given a platform on which to share their work.

I encourage you to find your spaces of gratitude today. It can be as simple as a cup of coffee, a moment of silence, a deep breath, a glance out the window to the world that holds you.

I leave you with this benediction:

You have been called out,
Sent out,
Gathered up and told,
“You. You are the one to fulfill this dream. You are the one to know this journey. You are the one to find God and all goodness.”
And like a hand on the small of your back,
You head out,
Only adventure ahead of you,
Only a path untouched,
Only a story untold,
Only a life yet to be lived–
Yours.
Go, my friend.
Go in peace.

IN THE GARDEN, AT SUNSET: a lesson in listening

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I came outside to listen, but all could I hear was noise– the hum of the car next door, an audiotape blaring through closed windows.

I thought I might hear from the seeds in my garden bed, but they were quiet.

Instead, my dog whines at dogs passing by. The crickets begin to sing, telling me an age-old story, I’m sure.

The birds are quieter tonight than they were this morning, and I understand that I am still practicing how to notice–

how to be aware;

how to hear the

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when the rest of the world is speaking.

But it would seem that the trees speak, too, even in the stillness, and I see up toward the sky a baby bird bobbing left to right in a nest, waiting for its parents to bring home dinner. I’d never noticed before.

Mosquitos are flocking to my skin– early in march, early because heat finds us in winter nowadays and makes the earth hotter than it should be.

I look up again and I can’t find the baby bird, because maybe it was only meant to be found in that one, sacred moment.

I wonder, often lately, what the birds think of us– what the hawks soaring overhead wonder about the gossiping, grouchy, sometimes gracious people below.

I never noticed before that the large pine tree to my right curves a little the higher up her trunk you look. She knows she’s beautiful, I think. She knows she’s wise.

A cardinal enjoys an evening meal at the bird feeder, and I’m close enough that I can hear the seeds crack in his tiny orange beak– it is a gift to notice.

And it is there that I realize, maybe the seeds did bring me here, after all.

Maybe the best place to view the world in this very moment is from the ground, at the edge of the garden, at sunset.

I go inside and the husky asks with his eyes what I’ve seen.

I silently say as I scratch his head, anything and everything, Pup.

Anything and everything. 

 

AN ATHEIST & A CHRISTIAN WALK INTO A BAR…

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ACTUALLY, it was a social work classroom. She had a shaved head and I had some sort of pixie cut, and we slowly began sitting together, working together, answering questions in class, passionate about the people and stories we studied.

After a few years of being in the social work program together, we knew that we were called to the same spaces, in the same ways, to care for those that have been broken and abused, to take up the cause of the weary.

We sat through lectures on LGBTQ rights, even in my naivety of knowing nothing about sexual orientation; we worked on projects together, talked about family and communities and how to make them better. She was patient with me as I fell out of my conservative bubble, and as I learned, we learned together.

She was a friend who celebrated my first pregnancy with me, expectantly waited for my first little boy to enter into our world.

We were a part of each other’s realms in so many ways, and yet, we were different.

She calls herself an atheist, and I call myself a Christ-follower. She may say I’m kind, and I might say I see Jesus in the passionate things she says & does.

These days, our dividing lines keep us from understanding that there is a thread of humanity that holds us– it’s a sacred thread, and because we belong to each other, we belong to the great conversation, based on care and compassion and justice.

When I was pregnant with my second son a few years later, we’d swapped places. I had a buzzed head and she had the full locks. Somehow, we’d meshed into each other, and learned in the midst of it that there are spaces in humanity, in friendships, that hold us steadily in line with each other.

Pelagius said it like this:

There are some who call themselves Christian, and who attend worship regularly, yet perform no Christian actions in their daily lives. There are others who do not call themselves Christian, and who never attend worship, yet perform many Christian actions in their daily lives. Which of these two groups are the better disciples of Christ? Some would say that believing in Christ and worshipping him is what matters for salvation. But this is not what Jesus himself said. His teaching was almost entirely concerned with action, and with the motives that inspire action. He affirmed goodness of behavior in whoever he found, whether the person was a Jew or Roman, male or female. And he condemned those who kept all the religious requirements, yet were greedy and cruel. Jesus does not invite people to become his disciples for his own benefit, but to teach and guide them in the ways of goodness. And if a person can walk along that way without ever knowing the earthly Jesus, then we may say that he [she] is following the spirit of Christ in his [her] heart.

 

It is a dangerous space we inhabit in today’s America. We are polarized and splintered, and it is more unbearable than I’d ever imagined.

But this story, it is not just about the Christian and the atheist. It’s not about the bar or social work classroom where they sit down next to each other and talk.

It’s about the people who know these two together, the onlookers and the bystanders. It’s about recognizing the organic relationship between people that leads to a life centered around care and justice for anyone who is marginalized.

Do you know why my relationship with my dear friend is so important to me?

Because it happens outside the walls of the church. We meet at a coffee shop on a warm afternoon, and we look at each other and cry with each other and know that on either side of salvation, we are working ourselves to the bone to love and care for whoever is around us.

And Jesus is in those spaces for me.

And humanity is in those spaces for us.

We remember again that we are not alone.

So what the world needs now is for dividing lines to be seen but stepped over, to be recognized but not given power, so that on either side of everything, we understand who we are to be–

people to other people;

friends to enemies;

lovers in the midst of hate;

warriors of peace;

creators of resistance;

lifelong learners;

prophets who speak truth;

creatures longing to be whole.

An atheist and a Christian walk into a bar–

or a social work classroom–

or a community event–

or a synagogue–

or a protest rally–

or a home–

and what they create together makes this reality sure:

that the world is never the same again.

DON’T FORGET 2016: when mourning leads to action

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I’ve read a lot of posts giving us permission to put 2016 behind us and move forward with hope.

Maybe we’re grieving the death of a part of us, or someone that we left in that year.

And when 2017 rolled around, we said good-bye to everything and everyone to begin again.

But the problem with leaving “the past in the past” is that we miss who we are because of it. I’ve watched people I love mourn those that they lost. They didn’t wish to forget them after the mourning period was over; they hoped to live into the legacy of that person, to walk in the light they left, to learn something from them, even after death.

So what did we leave behind in 2016? What died and what took its place?

The grief of those memories carry themselves in us, quiet and steady, often painful.

But the mourning process is out loud, our speaking and writing and making public that we are hurting and are asked to get better, to heal a little, to find comfort, to do something.

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Today I woke up mourning.

I do not mourn that Obama is leaving and Trump’s time begins.

I do not mourn for a political party or the threat of another authoritarian era.

I don’t mourn that we are a bullying nation, but that we began as one.

I mourn what I wake up to: a world slivered by hate and oppression, a world of people that ask what they can do to further their own causes before anyone else’s.

I mourn every day that my boys have to learn protest because hate exists, and that they have to find a fire inside their bones too awakened to be ignored.

I mourn the lies that we build nations and systems upon for the sake of the powerful.

I mourn a world in which refugees are the outcast, everything utterly backward and unjust.

We mourn things because they affect us. They do not let go of us— the memories, the spirit, the life that we lost.

And so we mourn what we left in 2016, but we do not forget it.

And we let our mourning and our grief lead us into action, into what is healthy, into what makes us whole.

In Native culture, we do not neglect the past, but use it to usher us forward.

Whether 2016 was the worst or best year of your life, carry its memory with you, use it to make 2017 what it should be, to inspire you toward hope and a fuller version of yourself.

Do anything but forget, and engage anything but inaction.

 

 

 

 

At the Feet of our Elder-Women: shared experiences that will heal our world

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Last Friday I attended a cabaret show at our church- a fabulous dinner around bottle-lit tables and Cole Porter tunes.

I suppose I was the youngest one there besides my four year old dinner date, which gave me a wonderful perspective for the evening.

As the jazz songs that I’ve always loved played on, I watched as smiles and memories flashed across the faces in the room around me.

I remembered that this was a moment to be treasured. To be a part of a multi-generational body or community is no small thing. I believe it holds tremendous necessity for our well-being;

how will I know how or when to go if I am not shown by another life well lived?

These interactions with my elders are usually short snippets on a Sunday morning, but I’m learning to hold them inside me, sacred spaces that I can call to when I need to remember my way.

In many Native American and African tribes, the family line is matriarchal, which means everything flows through the women of the family, and the highest honors are given to the elderly grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who hold the wisdom of their people for generations to come.

I do not have those elders in my life right now. I am without a Cherokee, Chickasaw or Potawatomi ancestor to turn to with the questions for my journey.

So I set myself at the feet of the women I know I can be close to, those who are already here— the ones who know this land and its people, who take stock in my community, church, and personal well-being.

And as it tends to happen in the human condition, we won’t always agree; but our hearts, if they are brave and willing enough, will move far beyond our desire to remain solitary.

It is no secret that the church is confused and divided. But I believe we can heal wounds and undo the wrongs that have been done, because it is necessary that we come together around the most important spaces in our history and culture. We meet each other at the table, across the room, in the middle of the week to learn what we do not know from each other.

We must share our stories and open up dialogue and become one again, and with every mesh of our spirits, a foundation is built that will hold strong for decades to come.

We must cultivate respect, and out of that respect, lead the community around us into a beautiful reality:

that despite age gaps, race, denomination, or money in the bank, it is the stories that give us life.

And as it happens, the women I learn to love will learn to love me,

and in loving and seeing one another, we begin to heal our untended wounds.

And we know that when one wound heals, it breathes room for another, and another, and another, healing heaped upon healing to restore something good to all of us.

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My Grandma Downing died when I was a teenager, and at her funeral I learned things about her I’d never known.

What I knew was what I’d seen as a child:

that she loved her living room recliner and crossword puzzles and watching Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on the kitchen television; that she made biscuits like no one else I’ve ever known; that her pearls and hair pins were a treat to play with at her bedroom vanity.

But I did not know her stories or her history, the history that indeed is saving me today.

I did not sit at her feet and see the sacred lineage of Jesus in her eyes.

I did not know, so I did not weigh its importance in myself, that those moments would stay with me for the rest of my life and lead me long after she had passed from my presence.

So we know what we can hold to in this moment, in this era, in this season of political angst and horrifying racial tensions.

We hold onto history, and we let it teach us, and the best way history can teach us what we need to know and lessons we need to learn is by the people who’ve lived it, the oldest of the oldest who know that the path stretched far before them and will keep stretching far beyond.

They are our teachers, and our best lessons are found in the dust that they leave as we follow behind them and bask in the mystery of their presence in our lives, mystery that will hover over us in all the days to come.

 

 

God is Not Culture

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Last week  at church, I sat in the midst of a discussion about the will of God.

We took turns telling our stories, sharing our points of view, discussing whether or not we can hold the will of God for another person, and what the will of God means for each of us.

Inside, I told myself over and over again that God is not culture. Because what we know in our churches is that God is good and Jesus is just, but it takes a lot to swallow that neither are American. Neither are any other culture, for that matter; they do not belong to a nation or a people, but hover over and in all of us, with the vastness of shalom as their greatest attribute.

I walk this ever- dissonant  line between learning my Native American heritage & spirituality and my place in today’s western Christian world, and as those lines become thinner and the black and whites become grayer, I discover that the journey toward God is the journey out of every culture I’ve ever known and into something sincerely other.

So all the characteristics that used to define my days are being re-arranged and re-structured, and I find that while it is difficult to strip myself of western culture in order to find God, it is possible.

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As a young girl and on into my teenage years, I followed every rule according to my Baptist upbringing. I never kissed and hardly dated, I worried myself silly over missed assignments or classes, I feared for my salvation because I felt excessively guilty over sins like forgetting to do my quiet time or my judgmental attitude. Some was personality, some was baggage, but a lot of it was culture.

In college I took a world literature class, and when an old testament bible story was called crazy by many of the students sitting around me, my childhood world was shaken and shattered and I faced a big, wide open world that I hadn’t realized existed– and I had to ask myself, what relationships had I missed living in that bubble?

While I let a western Christian culture define me, what good things were actually waiting on the outside of that culture?

While fear and guilt felt overwhelming, what brought me true peace all those years?

I cannot say that I regret my childhood, of course. It created and molded me, sent me into the world as who I am. But I certainly see that as the woman I am today, the shift has been a liberation.

There are a lot of problems we face today– problems as citizens, as creators, as investors, as families or parents or friends, as leaders or followers, as human beings. Perhaps the best way to break apart the cultured answers to those problems is to forget culture all together, to unpack it from where we stand now, and to ask ourselves, those closest to us, the waiting air, the God who’s always known a way– Who am I and where am I going?

Last week at church, I asked that question again.

And God answers with snippets of dreams and voice and relationships that speak truth.

God answers in the life of my great-great-grandmothers and their mothers before them who knew that journey was a sacred, good thing.

God answers in my modern day, Cooperative Baptist Church, where I lead people in singing out, in proclaiming that we are all hungry and wanting and waiting for liberation.

So I plant my feet in my moccasins in the morning, I greet the autumn air, I wish for my boys to know the world through song and dance and story and miracle, and I wish it for myself, too.

And next week, you and I will gather in our churches or shake hands in our communities or bring friends into our homes, and a few weeks after that we will stand in line at polling stations and make decisions and ask what is next for ourselves, for those we love, even for those we disagree with on every level but that still belong to us.

May we hold those spaces with reverence, accepting that what we know to be true today shapes us tomorrow, and what journey awaits us in the days and nights from here on out could be something completely other, a reality foreign to us, but forever necessary.

While reading poetry with my boys, I came across a poem called “Evolution” by Sara Holbrook and I think that’s exactly us, exactly what the journey is meant to be, a deep want and need to move and exist and change:

TV came

out of radio,

free verse

came out of rhyme.

I am

coming out of middle school,

changing all the time.

It’s time to lose the water wings,

crawl out of this lagoon.

I want to stand upright.

Get on my feet.

I want it soon.  

 

 

 

 

A Bucket List Lesson: adding miracle-seeking to our daily life goals

Eliot ran into the kitchen with his hand over his heart as I finished washing the dishes.

“Mom, you’ve GOT to see this! It made my heart cry, because I’m so happy.”

We all met in the office, where Travis pulled up a video of someone “hunting” the aurora borealis, the northern lights.

We watched as the screen glowed vibrant green, pink, purple, and yellow.

We saw an item added to our four-year-old’s life bucket list, a future dream to see those lights in reality someday.

It is clear to me, watching through the eyes of my children for even a moment, that we are surrounded by miracles.

The very fact that we breathe is a miracle;

the rhythm of our feet walking on the grass;

the birds who build their nests in the heights and the chipmunks who burrow beneath us-

we co-exist with miracles, great and small.

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But we are taught from an early age to reserve miracle-talk for special occasions, like resurrection or the homeless stranger who speaks truth to us in the dark of night, who could in fact have been an angel.

We miss the full spectrum of life, the greatest to the least.

We miss the chance to see the world new again just because we are alive today to see it.

Isaiah, my 3 year old, fights dragons inside his head from the moment he wakes, singing the theme song from Bob the Builder as he zooms his trucks through the dirt in our front yard. His imagination is a miracle.

So in preserving our children’s childhood imagination, we preserve their God-given ability to be miracle-seekers, and on other days, miracle-makers.

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We are not without wonder, even in a world so full of hate; our children teach us that if our imaginations stay alive in us well into adulthood, we have then power to create something good, to see the undercurrent of life taking place around us.

And we are humbled again, taught by the children we teach, given instruction on how to be more human, more loving, more in awe of every aspect of our lives.

I notice that on my worst days, I miss what is important to me– quiet moments, real-life conversations, small wonders.

Maybe as adults we need to re-write our own bucket lists, adding MIRACLES to the top, so that the vision stays with us, speaks with us, haunts us and reminds us that we have the ability to make life sweeter right now, and tomorrow, and all those long days after.

And if you need a little inspiration right now, join Eliot in admiring this miracle, and maybe making a point to see it one day:

birthday lesson #28: who am i, again?

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I turn twenty eight this week.

Last Sunday at church all the songs I led for worship echoed the seasons, the way our lives shift and change and become something different every now and then. We all remembered there in that space that if life is one thing, it is not boring.

And every year we are reminded of those seasons on the one day that celebrates that moment we were born, that space where we entered into the world of oxygen and music and sight and miracles.

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Last week, we got a batch of files back from a photo shoot  with our friend Connor, and I as pulled up the pictures of myself, I became so nervous and embarrassed, sitting there at the computer with all my guys– my husband and our two sons next to me.

And I realized that there is this disconnect between who we think we are and who everyone else sees us as–

it’s so multi-leveled, of course; and with the continual advent of social media, it becomes more difficult, because we give the world the view we think the world wants of who we are and we hope to be.

So it’s good timing, then, that I turn twenty eight soon and that fall is coming to show me something new of myself.

I told my family that I wanted practical gifts that reflect my Native American heritage. I want to visit some tribal sites and hike places in Georgia where my ancestors once walked.

I look at these pictures of myself and my family and realize how old I look, how different I look from the 27 year old that I was or the 19 year old who got married eight years ago and was changed forever.

As an early gift I received moccasins from my mom, and so I place them at the floor by my bed and slip them on in the mornings, remembering that ritual is something sacred to me now, in a way that is different than before– a lesson learned.

As we grow older, we collect lessons– we learn and we mistake and we learn again, and if we’re lucky we recognize that there is grace in all of it.

When I was very young, I learned lessons of giving and sharing and being part of a family.

In adolescence I learned grief, the hard pain of losing someone close and steady, the lesson of finding God where I did not know God could draw near.

And then I got married, and I learned that God is different and bigger and more kind than I’d ever thought, that those kindnesses could help me love a spouse and one day bring children into the world.

When I had children, the lessons became more tangible and they humbled me deeper, to the most closed-off parts of myself. They taught me all over again that I am like the child as I lean into my own children, that curiosity is our best guide.

Last year I became an in-the-process-of-being-published writer with Paraclete Press, and I learned that life is never what I expect and God is Mystery, always full, always life, always more.

And the lesson for this year, for the first day of my 28th round of 365 days?

This lesson is to ask who I am again.

And perhaps that’s the ultimate lesson, after all, but for this particular year I’m asking who I am as a Native American woman, as a Christian, as a person being molded into a craft, as a wife, as a human who holds a sacred soul that needs to be listened to.

I’m learning to take my health seriously, to rest and breathe deep and enjoy quiet in a new way.

And I’m holding onto that hope that lessons find me year after year, decade after decade, mysterious secrets revealed little by little, puzzle pieces fitted together each day that I take the time to ask the questions and ache for a fuller living.

A happy birthday, indeed.

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A New Practice in Remembering Others: Lazarus & the global millennial

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I found a Catholic prayer candle at Goodwill a few afternoons ago.

It hadn’t been lit yet, so all prayers resulting from its wick’s glow would be the first.

On the front, San Lazaro, Saint Lazarus, Saint of the Poor.

I took the candle home and placed it on the kitchen window by the sink, the window overlooking our neighbor’s side yard.

Our new home doesn’t have a dishwasher, so doing dishes isn’t just work, but an event, a challenge to keep the kitchen organized and clean.

So I light the candle and I say hello to Saint Lazarus. I remember the story of his life, the way he and Jesus cared for another like kin.

I can hear the boys arguing in the living room behind me, their voices rising and falling again as they move on, playing together.

I scrub the bowls clean and place them on the dish rack to my right, wondering what it means to be poor, to not be poor, to be poor of spirit, to be poor of heart.

I rinse the knives and forks and spoons and say thanks for what I’ve seen and known in my days, but there is Lazarus, speaking to me with his eyes, reminding me that I am not alone, because my people, my generation, my living– it’s not just mine. It’s a global reality.

In a collection of essays by young Syrians, I remembered what Lazarus’s life meant.

I remember the beggar sitting outside the rich man’s house;

I remember the way we listen to what we want to hear and avoid what we don’t;

I remember our obsession with Mercedes and Frank Lloyd Wright and the iPhone-newest;

we are bombarded with sales racks and celebrity gossip and religious piety;

and it becomes easier and easier to avoid the eyes of Saint Lazarus, his presence and his challenge to never forget the ones who are far away and walk a terrifying path.

“The first full day at Saarbrücken was very hard on me. I had to wait in lines for food and papers. But I had to just deal with it. I am no longer in my house. I am not sitting in my kitchen with my family, waiting for my mother to prepare a nice meal. This is my new temporary life now.” —Hassan Jamous, 24.

And so I grab the towel and begin to dry those extra dishes that couldn’t fit on the dish rack, and I see faces this time, hear names and imagine stories playing over and over again in my mind.

I am a millennial– a western millennial, a Native American millennial, a female, mother, partner, worship leader, writer millennial.

But what do generation gaps mean for the rest of the world? I look at the eyes of Zozan Khaled Musa, 25,  and realize that while I sit here and drink my coffee in a coffee shop in Atlanta, she sits in Germany as a refugee, with hopes and dreams for things that are similar to my hopes and my dreams–

a young woman my age who knows wisdom and grace because she has walked so far and so hard to get to where she is today.

Or Rena Khalid Moussa, 29,  a year older than me. I see her, too.

Please read their stories.

Light your candle and remember.

To be better world citizens, we remember that we are not the only citizens, and that we belong to a whole creation of others– every generation coming after the one before, every life marked by sweat and tears and the hope for connection.

It is so good to remember what is beautiful, to look around us and bask in thanksgiving, to give ourselves over to gratefulness every single day.

But a practice is demanded of us, one that has existed for centuries and will never die out as long as there is suffering lurking across the earth–

we practice lighting that candle and we practice stepping outside of ourselves and if we’re lucky, we learn to take our children and our friends and our churches and our everything along with us,

and there the world’s borders are broken, and we find that every refugee belongs to us and we to them,

every brokenness is ours,

every poor heart is our poor heart,

every glorious reality is shared between us,

and the eyes and spirit of Saint Lazarus tell us again that the way we are resurrected day after day is by knowing that life exists outside our tombs and broken places, where we find each other at the light of the new morning.

 

 

 

Work and Non-work: the practice of finding something in nothing

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“God is in the body, where we look out for each other.” –Peter Rollins

I’ve had a part time job on top of finishing this book for over a month now, and I find that my mind is cluttered–my brain is literally compartmentalizing itself again, creating new pathways and figuring out new rhythms, and by mid day it is exhausted. And in this, I see a tiny glimpse of the working family’s dilemma to keep up and the need for the body to slow down.

And we’re preparing for another PhD fall semester, and as much as we long for fall and the craziness, it creeps up and takes over and you’ve got to be ready for it.

I’ve noticed that I’ve had a headache for a few days now, a sore throat, less energy and a little more anxiety than normal.

I’ve noticed these little things changing inside my mind and heart, and deep down the red flags are going up as an early warning that rest is needed, sooner than later.

And so, I attempt to set boundaries, to non-work, to keep the laptop closed until nap time, to purposefully lose my phone and look at books instead, to intentionally make the morning a slow one.

There is so much something in nothing.

There is so much life in the quiet, so much rejuvenation in the unordinary rest period. So we over schedule ourselves for days and days, and to protect ourselves from completely burning out, we stop while we can–even for an hour–and we do NOTHING.

We turn off the phone and hide the MacBooks and Kindles; we sit by the fire and read, we do puzzles with the kids, or drink our coffee and tea–slowly this time; we talk and we share and we process and we stay in bed a little bit longer, dreaming.

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No hurry.

Just rest.

At some point in time, some voice started to say that life needed to be done this way to be a successful one: fast and hard and with money in mind.

And that lone voice was joined with other voices until that chorus began to dictate what regular life became.

But today, we fight back.

We read ourselves, check our vitals, know our boundaries, trust our boundaries.

We use that vacation time that’s been adding itself up over the years and we take a day for ourselves, for our family, for our sanity, for our good.

We are so less useful to ourselves and the world when we are completely used up, so we learn to say no more than yes, to stay in more than out, to disengage what takes up so much of our lives and engage the quiet of our own souls, just for a little while.

We practice eye contact with those closest to us, re-learn what it means to listen and engage, to learn and practice wide-eyed curiosity.

And in knowing ourselves, in caring for ourselves, we know and care for each other.

And there we find God, we find holy, we find good and true.

We hearken back into the spaces we may have abandoned for months, maybe years.

The good news is that those quiet spaces always take us back.

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Do not be afraid of the non-work, friends.

It may be exactly what keeps you working in the first place.