Creating a Written History

For all the crazy social media hoists onto our lives, it can also create sweet connections. Today’s guest writer and I attended the same college for a couple of years before life took us in different directions. But Facebook, and then blogging, allowed us to reconnect as friends and mothers and women making sense of life through writing. Life gets hard and writing can be just as messy but we’re doing it–and we get to support each other along the journey.

Create Challenge #40: Donna Schweitzer

I never considered myself a particularly creative person. Right out of the gate, I felt myself to be rather ho-hum. I could color within the lines like a machine, but I couldn’t draw a stick figure to save my life. I played the clarinet and sang well, but couldn’t write my own tune if you begged. I can analyze a story, breaking down character, storylines, themes, and symbolism, but I find it near impossible to write my own Great American Novel. Most of our couples’ photos are the ones friends snap of us, so there’s no great photography skill there either. I can sew to a pattern but can’t design anything on my own. I suppose you would say my creativity lies in following the directions.

I became a mom the first time in September of 2000. Our oldest son entered the world in dramatic fashion, arriving over three months early. He weighed a mere two pounds, and was fifteen inches long. His life hung in the balance for weeks. I spent days by his plastic isolette, bargaining with God for my son’s life, watching my son battle with all his tiny might to learn to breathe on his own, eat and digest food before his body was ready, and endure more medical tests in three months than I have my entire life. Before he was even born, though, I’d begun a journal for him. I continued to write even when we didn’t know if he would survive. I wanted him to know how much we loved him, my experience of his life, what courage we saw on a daily basis, what each tiny milestone meant.baby-1681181__340

As mom of a micro-preemie, you don’t get to hold your baby whenever you want—your baby has to be stable enough that day, that hour, to handle the stimulation of being held. Those hours by his bedside I wasn’t able to hold him, I would write. It helped me in so many ways—it helped me focus on the positive things, it helped me gnash out my grief and fear, it helped me process, it helped me feel more like his mom. When he finally came home on Christmas Day 2000, that journal continued by my side, documenting his milestones, the setbacks, me growing into motherhood. We went on to have two more children—both full-term, normal, healthy pregnancies—a daughter in the middle, and our youngest, another son. We call them our Herd.

When our oldest was three years old, we discovered a particular foundation had played a vital role in his survival. Without the research this organization funded, he simply would not be here. That organization also has an online support community for NICU parents. That community began a blog-hosting forum for its members a year into its existence. By then a seasoned journal-writer, I jumped at the chance, especially as the site was small, close-knit, and felt safe. My writing took on a life of its own. Blogging helped me continue to heal from what we’d endured. It helped me reach out to others just beginning the prematurity journey. It gave me a voice. It helped me through new diagnosis for our oldest, some gut-wrenching parenting decisions, allowed me to share the funny side of parenting, and gave me a place to vent, because goodness knows, this parenting gig can be a struggle. More importantly, it gave me community—a safe place with people who understood completely what I was experiencing as they’d been through it too.

I moved my blog to a more-public site years ago. I kept it private in the beginning. It was more of an outlet for me, and a way to keep family and close friends in the loop on our family’s life. Then about four years ago, I decided to make it a public blog. It was terrifying clicking “Post” that first day, sending my words out into the world. What if no one read it? What if I didn’t ever have any followers? What if no one responded or commented? I’d decided I eventually want to write that book—not fiction, mind you, but a book of my experiences. More than that, I still hope my words, my stories of our family’s path, will help someone else, give hope to someone else, or at the very least make someone laugh. In addition, my children have my written take on their lives, our lives as a family, from before they were even born.

My writing isn’t always pretty. There have still been some medical repercussions for our oldest from his premature birth, although he is healthy and as normal as any other sixteen-year-old boy. Our youngest son was diagnosed autistic five years ago. I never gloss over what that journey is about. I feel the need to be brutally honest about what we deal with. Then there’s parenting in general, parenting teens, raising a ballerina, and still learning what this mom thing is all about.

I’m convinced God gave me this gift of journaling to reach out to those who will be helped by my words. Most of my ideas come in the middle of the night. Then I process them out while I’m running. Finally, I get to put them down on the screen. I don’t often think too much while I’m writing—I prefer it be more of an unconscious process. Often, I learn how I feel, what I’m afraid of or worried about, when I read back what I’ve written. Words that began often as bargaining prayers for my son’s life sixteen years ago have turned into thousands of posts, creating a written history for my children and our family. dschweitzer

 

Donna Schweitzer has been married to her husband, Michael, for eighteen years (on December 5th!). They reside in San Diego, CA. They have three children, ages 16, 15, and 12, who, along with three dogs and two cats, are affectionately known as The Herd. They travel, watch more sports than is probably healthy, laugh frequently, love much. You can find her blog at threesaherd.com.

Advent Week 1 -The Promise of Joy

road

No matter how far in advance I begin preparing for Advent–and as church Communication Director, that can be much farther in advance than you’d think–the first Sunday of Advent always strikes me as a bit of a surprise.

End-August through end-November are my professional busy season, reflecting on the past year as I compile the annual report and projecting forward as we plan for Advent and the new year. Personally, I lose track of the chronological calendar; I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving, wait, Thanksgiving is over…? I need Advent to locate me in time again.

More than Christmastime, when we decorate and bake and celebrate, I need Advent to rouse my slumbering soul, to reawaken my wonder. I need Advent to remind me to expect God to show up in unexpected ways.

I need Advent to hear God’s promise of joy.

This morning the church was beautifully decorated with Christmas trees sparkling with gold and silver ornaments and twinkling white lights. This morning our friends processed to the chancel and, as a family, read from Luke 1 and led us in prayer as they lit the first candle of Advent.

This morning we made a baptismal pledge to help a young family raise their son in faith. His parents grew up side-by-side in this church; his grandparents on both sides are stalwart members; this sweet boy is named for his grandfathers–John, his maternal grandfather, and Wellwood, his paternal grandfather (Woody). His parents are Eric and Liz.

Pastor handed Eric a microphone and invited him to read a Scripture. He read the verse painted above his son’s crib, Luke 1:13-14:

13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth…

This baby John receiving the sacrament of baptism, his mother is named Elizabeth. His great-grandmother Elizabeth also gave birth to a John, his grandfather for whom he is named. And way back when, God unexpectedly showed up to grant the joy of answered long-prayed prayers by another Elizabeth, who gave birth to John the Baptist.

The story of which just happened to be today’s Scripture text.

God shows up in wonder. We may wait for a long journey; we may struggle in the waiting; we may be righteous and still a little bit sad; we may–we do!–need God to show up in unexpected ways. God is good. God is faithful. God promises joy, the joy of His presence no matter whether the circumstances incline us to happiness. I need Advent to remind me to open my eyes to God’s presence, God’s wonder, God’s joy.

Guy snuggling little John at a neighborhood block party

Guy snuggling little John at a neighborhood block party

Week 1 – The Promise of Joy
November 27-December 3

 Read and light the first candle (middle purple candle): The first candle represents the promise of joy.

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Read Scripture: Luke 1:5-25

Read: Zechariah and Elizabeth grew old in righteousness but childlessness had stolen their joy. When they least expected it, the angel Gabriel delivered God’s promise of joy: Elizabeth would bear a son! Their long-prayed prayers would be answered at last. John would be a joy and delight to his parents and cause many to rejoice as he prepared people for the Lord.

Pray: Dear God, we eagerly anticipate your joy as you prepare our hearts for your Son. In the name of Jesus we wait and pray, Amen.

Monday Joshua 23:14 What promises has God fulfilled for you?
Tuesday 1 Chronicles 16:8-11 What wonderful acts has God done? Rejoice!
Wednesday Psalm 40:1-3 How do you actively wait for the Lord?
Thursday Isaiah 12:2-4 What difference does trusting God make in your daily life?
Friday 2 Peter 3:9 When has it felt like the Lord was slow in keeping His promise? What hope does this verse offer?
Saturday Jude 24-25 When has God kept you from stumbling?

Creating Trust

As we head into the holiday season, many of us anticipate time with family and extended family… Cue the emotions! While today’s post isn’t about holidays, it is about trusting God with our families in life’s everyday moments and the brutal no-one-wants-that-news time-suspending experiences. It serves as a good reminder to never take life–and the people who grace or sustain our lives–for granted. (BTW, Sarah does make darling Christmas decorations and I am proud to own an original!)

Create Challenge #39: Sarah Johnson

When I was asked to contribute to this blog and the topic was “creating” my mind immediately went to the physical sense of the word. I asked myself, what do I create? Well, I like to think I create a comfortable home that my husband and children enjoy and feel safe in. Then I thought, well, I’m creative! I like to make Christmas decorations, and was even able to sell some (for actual money)!

But God was not ready for me to “create” this story yet.in-god-we-trust-header

Then one evening in February He gave me a real story worth sharing. It was not an easy story to take in as my reality, but He gave it to me anyway.

You see, my mom had a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. She was all the way in Dallas, Texas, while I was all the way in Northern California. The call came with this devastating news well into the evening, too late to get a flight home to be with her.

Here is where Trust comes in. I had no choice but to Trust that the Lord had my mom in His hands. And I had to Trust that He already knew the outcome to this devastating news that was my very fresh and raw reality. As I lay on the couch waiting for my 3:00am alarm to sound, so that I could fly to Dallas, I had to Trust.

I arrived into Dallas and made it to the hospital before my mom was even out of her 5 hour craniotomy. Again Trust. But I was starting to feel something totally unexpected. I was feeling the comfort of the Lord surrounding me and my family during this extremely difficult time, a time that I would have thought I would be sitting there feeling completely helpless. I felt almost empowered by the Grace of God, and I just “knew” my mom was going to be OK.

So all of a sudden I found myself in this role that I had not expected to be in, a role only the Lord would see fit for the youngest daughter of three. A role of a rock, a rock that my father was able to lean on, a rock that my sister was able to lean on, and a rock that my BIG brother was able to lean on. You see, I would have guessed that my big brother would have taken that role or even my sister; they are older and wiser, right? But God had another plan. I trusted Him in this, and ran with it.

I was able through Trust to see the Lord’s hand working in all of us. I could already see Him working through my brother, stirring emotions in him that had not been stirred in a while. I could feel His presence during different conversations I had with many different family members and close family friends. I was able to stay strong and, hopefully through this strength, show others God’s Grace. I could see and feel the Lord very clearly, and I just knew my mom was going to be okay.

We are on the other side of this horrific event, an event I would not wish on my worst enemy. But we are all stronger because of it. My mom is doing great and, to be honest, better than she was before.

God works in mysterious ways; He will go to great lengths to make things happen, and to answer our prayers. You see, my mom was not a bad person, not evil or malicious. She just was not always happy. A bit cynical at times, like you never knew what kind of mood she was going to be in. So for years my sister had been praying that the Lord would soften her heart. Well, guess what? He did! Since she had the brain injury she has laughed more than ever. She is always positive, and reminding all of us to look at life with the glass half full instead of empty.

Trust, my friend, is what the dear Lord created in me that evening in February.

sjohnson

 

 

My name is Sarah Johnson. I’m a native Texan who has been living in the beautiful state of California for the past 21 years! I met my husband 20 years ago, and we have been married for 17 years and counting. We have two beautiful daughters, a 12 year old and a 14 year old. I do miss all my family and friends in Texas (desperately!), but I do love the life I have built out here as well.

Remember, Forget, Imagine, Hope

As we approach the end of the year and the end of this guest post series, I feel reflective and overwhelmed at the talented people who surround my life. Sarah is one of those people (as you’re about to see if you don’t already know her). We are co-workers and friends; she leads me in worship regularly, and she inspires me in so many ways. Today’s post is vulnerable and lovely and reminds me to create wherever, whenever, and from whatever situation lies before me.

Create Challenge #38: Sarah D. Williams

Sometimes I create to remember. Sometimes I create to forget. Sometimes I create to imagine what could be—creating from a place of hope, as if offering a prayer to the Creator through my written words or painted canvas, potted plant or redesigned room, chord progressions or dance steps.

In 2013, high atop Machu Picchu, gazing out over the valley of wondrous Incan ruins, I created to imagine what could be. What could be just a little bit better. More. Not that there was anything saliently wrong. But that’s the beauty of creating: Sometimes we don’t even know what we long for until it is unearthed through the creative process. And sometimes it takes a breath-catching backdrop to poke deeply enough, to prod our souls, to till and dig and do the unearthing.

I broke my foot 3 days before I was scheduled to fly to Peru and lead a team of 13 adults and students heading high up in the Andes Mountains to spend a week working at a children’s home in Andahuaylas.

I broke my foot while packing and organizing the 50-lb donation bags we would carry 2-per from SFO to LIM, LIM to ANS. My doctor put me on her own no-fly list, but (thankfully, and with much begging) she greenlighted me to fly 8 days later. So my husband and I set off to join our team, me booted up and him carrying all 200 pounds of our donations plus our carry-ons. (He made a lovely Sherpa.) We arrived just in time to head to Machu Picchu, all while creating our own version of Plains, Trains, and Automobiles.swilliams-mp

If the cobblestones of the streets of Cusco don’t kill you, the steep drop-to-your-death cliffs of Machu Picchu, sans guardrails, will. Therefore, after deciding perhaps touring MP was a bit too dangerous to do in a boot-as-cast that left me balance-challenged, the group headed into the park without me.

At the top of MP—after taking the van and train and bus it takes to get there from Cusco—you find one snack bar. There, at this overpriced and un-vegan-friendly (as one would expect) eatery, as I sipped hot tea (served in an extra-large, wax-coated soda cup that melted as quickly as it brewed), I opened my journal. And I began to create.swilliams-journal

My husband and I have taken the road less traveled in our marriage. After being friends for 9 years, we transitioned to dating and then married quickly (6 months later). And 4 very challenging years in, we separated (again for 6 months). He moved back to Kansas (We are both native Jayhawks), and I stayed in our little home in Pleasant Hill. We had no plans to reconcile once the move was made; we were divorcing and getting our legal and financial ducks in a row (as they say in Indiana—our home before moving to the Bay Area, one year into marriage).

I won’t delve into the details here, though I am happy to do so over tea or wine. The point is, marriage for us has been a challenge. And that may be putting it mildly. Our current union, and past reconciliation, is a story of grace and redemption, forgiveness and re-creating. I often say that the old relationship had to first die (a painful death) before we could try again, start rebuilding, from the ground up. An example of creating in hope—a reimagining of what it could be.

We have always been good at outward-facing intimacy: intimacy built when facing away from one another, focused together on a common goal or project. We have not been so good at inward-facing intimacy: when it’s just the 2 of us, looking at each other, focused only on one another. We lead worship together, and we have since high school; this intimate act we can do easily, even when married life is hard and messy. This is outward-facing intimacy. We song write together, and we have in fits and spurts since high school as well; this intimate act we do with much kicking and screaming (mostly screaming), especially when married life is hard and messy. We have actually spent time in couple’s therapy (which we both highly recommend) working on our co-writing process, as it mirrors our intimacy struggles in other areas as well.

But let’s head back to Machu Picchu, shall we? To me, with journal open, drinking waxy tea, reflecting and praying and creating. My jumping off point for the song below was (a slight derivation of) the last line of a Pablo Neruda poem (Every Day You Play), though I was not cognizant of that at the moment. (At some point, it seems, that line had deeply embedded itself in my soul).

From here, I created to imagine what could be: what could be for us in our most intimate expression of inward-facing intimacy. How we could be free and playful while embracing the messy and the unknown. How we could dare to explore the dance of sexual intimacy with effort and energy that we may feel drawn to spend elsewhere. How we could, with authenticity and respect, communicate needs and desires and then seek to meet those needs and desires in ways that perhaps challenged each of us to be more vulnerable, more present, more…creative.

I want to do with you what spring does to the cherry tree
Gently sway and blanket you in life and blossom wild
I want the juice to run down my chin get on my hands
I want, I want you

I want to do with you what frost does to the windowpane
Close enough to etch myself right into your skin
I want to trace the lines left by my love for you
I want, I want you

I want to do with you what bunnies do, what bunnies do
Without a care, a cost, a thought—let nature have its way
I want the fur to fly, then rest up on the bed we made
I want, I want you
I want, I want you

We create to remember. We create to forget. We create—in hope, and with trembling sometimes—to imagine what could be.

Most importantly, we create.

swilliamsSarah lives in the East Bay with her partner Michael and 2 dogs, Bristow and Jed Bartlet (and formerly Bob Dylan, RIP). Creating is her jam, both for work and for leisure–from music and stories and scripts to succulent arrangements and visual art and interior design (and blog posts). She spends most of her time outside (Yea for California weather!) and can usually be found in her adorable (read: tiny) backyard with her dogs and a laptop, blogging, doing prep work for an upcoming Bad Rap event event, designing vocal parts for Sunday services at MVPC, or emailing a sales lead for Retzlaff Vineyards & Winery. She imperfectly strives to live an authentic, Christ-centered life and desires for all people to be given a voice and treated with dignity and respect…and love, because ALWAYS love wins. One day she hopes to try her hand at stand-up comedy: Have you heard the one about the vegan who used to live in Kansas?

Meatless Monday – Greek Veggie Burgers

Due to computer issues and the resulting several computer-less weeks, I have a back-log of Create Challenge posts to share. So what a joy that one friend wrote about creating food and was willing to share a Meatless Monday–and gluten-free to boot–recipe with us today! I didn’t know how passionately Sara feels about food, and so I’m chagrined to remember that for her going away party many, many moons ago, I attempted (and completely botched) her favorite dessert: Key Lime Pie. Thankfully, she forgave me and our friendship survived one inedible dessert.

Create Challenge #37: Sara Pantazes

I am a stay-at-home mom with 3- and 5-year-old boys. I have a loving husband who works hard at his job everyday so that I can stay home, which is where I want to be, and raise our boys. So what do I create? Every single day? I create menus, I create meals…I create food.

I come from a long line of wonderful people who love to cook. My grandmother self-published a cookbook of her and close family friend’s recipes to preserve and share our family love of cooking. I will admit that I did not fully grow into this heritage until I was married and found myself with my very own kitchen for the first time that was full of brand-new kitchen supplies. Those first couple years of marriage were a culinary joy for me. I tried new recipes a couple times a week, and spent Saturday mornings relaxing in front of Food Network shows for new ideas. At that point I did not cook because we needed to eat and could not afford to eat out all the time. I cooked because I wanted to and I loved it.

Life moved along pretty smoothly until our first son was given a ‘failure to thrive’ diagnosis at his two-year-old check-up. He was not gaining weight the way he was supposed to and for a couple very scary months we did not know why. Then he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and I was so relieved, because I knew that this was something I could handle. Like every mom, I wanted to fix what was going wrong and this was something I could fix! I felt confident in my ability to master the gluten-free diet.

But from this point forward things just got more bumpy. Out of necessity, I created a gluten-free dinner for my son every night but did not always create gluten-free dinners for my husband and myself. Then baby number two came along, which eventually led to dinners for him that could be mushed in his toothless or teething mouth. For a period of time I was making three dinners every night for four people. The creative thing that I loved had become a burden and a chore.

The latest bump in my creative culinary journey is that I was diagnosed with an egg allergy about eighteen months ago. Gluten-free I can do. Egg-free I am learning to do. Gluten-free and egg-free together is a bit of a nightmare (at least so far). Breakfast in particular is a challenge. If I want to make any kind of baked good, I either make two versions or make one and deny my son or myself the enjoyment of consuming it. Cooking has become complicated, time-consuming, and more expensive.

I am hopeful I will get to a better place with food again. Because, despite all the challenges, I still love to cook and I cannot stop myself from striving to provide great meals for myself and my family. Really good food makes me excited. It can turn my bad day around if I cook something that I really love for dinner. If you ask me to describe the best thing I have ever eaten, I will get an unstoppable, goofy grin on my face and use my whole body in an attempt to convey the depths of how much I loved that dish. For better or for worse, food is a God-given passion in my life. Finding healthy, affordable, and delicious ways to feed and satisfy my family is not an easy task. But I am going to keep trying. I will keep searching for the joy amid this messy and challenging creative process of cooking.

Big Fat Greek Veggie Burgers
Makes 4 burgers
(Recipe originally from Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny)

  • One 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 c feta or non-dairy cheese (i.e. Daiya mozzarella shreds)
  • 1 organic egg or flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water, whisked)
  • 1/2 c gluten-free oat flour (or make your own by finely grinding gluten-free oats)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 split gluten-free burger buns or lettuce leaves for serving

Greek sauce:

  • 1/2 c. organic or non-dairy mayonnaise (i.e., Vegenaise)
  • 1/4 c. organic or non-dairy plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. feta or non-dairy cheese (i.e., Daiya mozzarella shreds)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Suggested toppings: thinly sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, lettuce leaves, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini rings

Using a potato masher or a fork, mash beans until slightly smooth, but still chunky. Add spinach, olives, cheese and egg of your choice, oat flour, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. Using your hands, combine thoroughly.

Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Form dough into four separate patties. Place a skillet spritzed with oil or cooking spray over medium to medium high heat. Cook patties for 10-12 minutes, gently flipping once during cooking, until browned on both sides.

For Greek sauce, combine mayo, yogurt and cheese of your choice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve Greek burgers on top of buns or lettuce leaves, slathered with Greek sauce and trimmed with the toppings of your choice.

spantazes

Sara Pantazes is wife of Tom and mom of Ben and Matt. Their family life started in Williamsburg, VA but they now live in a beautiful rural-suburban corner of southeast Pennsylvania. When she is not busy cooking or having all other kinds of mom fun, Sara is working to earn a Master of Arts in Christian Education. If she had chosen another topic for this blog series, it would almost certainly have been on the creative process of teaching children about God, another God-given passion in her life.

Embroidery

Today’s post resonates in my creative soul. During a recent conversation about creativity I heard myself say, “I need a hobby that is not also my job.” I write for work, I write for my blog, and I write for my sanity. And sometimes, I just need to slam the computer shut. Which doesn’t stunt my urge to create, however. This post explores that conundrum: when what you love becomes your work and then loses (and gains) a little bit of shine. And also, why does creating for others feel like generosity while creating for self feels selfish? I’m going to have to sit with that question for a while…

Create Challenge #36: Annie Nybo

I am lucky enough to have a job in a creative field, and blessed that my hobby (reading) is what I do (editing books).

But the downside of that is that reading and writing become work to me, and my personal reading tastes have changed drastically because of it. As my career has grown, so too has my need for another creative outlet, and so I have spent the past several years knitting, cross-stitching, and embroidering up a storm.anybo-regrets

The thing that strikes me upon writing this, however, is that I find it nearly impossible to own that talent. When people compliment my work, my first response is to tell them how easy it is. (And guys, it is. Cross stitch is really freaking easy if you can count). It feels wrong to get compliments on some hipster sayings I sew when I look at tapestries from the middle ages. Suddenly my little Darth Vader doesn’t look so great.anybo-vader

I can’t even literally own my own work—I find it hard to create for myself. I dream up projects for other people, but I do not have a single piece of my embroidery displayed in my room. And I think it’s because making something for myself feels selfish. What a waste of time when I could be making something as a gift.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it challenging to create for themselves. To create is to be vulnerable, and it’s nerve-wracking to be so enamored of something you’ve made that you’d show it off.  In the way many of us have been raised, that smacks of pride and arrogance.anybo-dove anybo-cali

But the urge to hide and deflect and demure is one I want to quash in the coming year. Because true creative freedom comes in being able to say, “I made this and it is good.” And I wanted to call attention to and honor the space within us all that knows we’re talented—even if that talent is remembering state capitols—and owning that spark.

This holiday season, I will be sewing many gifts, but in between all the projects I will be finishing one for myself, one that I’ve worked on for almost a year. As I finish, and try to finish strong, I will have to constantly remind myself that “it is good.” I don’t need to sell it or give it away, I can be proud of a job well done. That’s not arrogance, that’s understanding oneself.anybo-elfanybo

Annie Nybo is a children’s book editor and lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she reads, sews, and plays video games.

Be Still…

happy_birthday-8

“Stillness can be an adventure,” says Pico Iyer, and so on my birthday I gave myself the gift of stillness.

I left my phone on airplane mode and turned off my email. No news, no social media.
I went for a longer-than-usual run.
I gave myself a mani-pedi.
I lit a candle, sipped a cup of tea, and prayed.
I listened to calming music.
I read and wrote, my job but reframed today as my work-at-home retreat.
I smelled the roses and lifted my face to the warming sun.
I took deep breaths.

Of late the world has been particularly noisy. Beyond the normal seasonal work-and-life stress, global conflict and racial strife explode from gun barrels; politicians and their supporters shout in lieu of dialogue; and under our own roof, the extra of one kid applying to college while another struggles for health… One can only take in so much.

The antidote: stillness. And gratitude.

No year in a life can be perfect, even perfectly easy. This year had its trials, but in so many ways, this has been a good year in my life.

I initiated the Create Challenge on my blog, a source of encouragement and inspiration that has also connected me with people in new ways.
I started running, so unlikely it still makes me laugh.
I didn’t quit, despite set-backs.
I took on new work challenges with confidence.
I preached a summer Sunday sermon.
I have made good progress on a personal creative project.
I have friends and family who love me and a job that fulfills me.
Life is good, and stillness helps me to hear its goodness above the clamor.

I jotted down this quote from Kate Atkinson’s book, A God in Ruins, because it spoke to my need for stillness: “The last thing she wanted was people looking for her. No, that wasn’t true—the last thing she wanted was people finding her.”

I want to be looked for—I want people to need me and enjoy my company. And I want to be found. Tomorrow. Tomorrow we can have a party, a loud celebration. For today, I trust that those who love me will appreciate my self-gift of self-care. Thank you for your patience with me as I extend patience to myself.

Stillness has been both solace and struggle (how to still the hum of shattered nerves?). It took time and effort to stay put, to keep at it, to avoid easy distractions. I carefully guarded my daylight hours and, in so doing, I completed a major project in record time while also receiving a different measure of quiet rest. Like any discipline, any adventure worth having, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I might just do it again, sooner than later.worth-it