Hi. Hello. Happy New Year. Happy almost February. Time does it again.
I’m not, or I guess I haven’t been one to have a ‘word of the year’, ‘word for the year’. I’m not quite sure how it’s supposed to be said. Have you heard of this? There’s a process of selecting your word- a word to go before the new year and offer solace, hope, rejuvenation, challenge or change. A few friends have their word, or words posted via social media and talk about it as an existing theme to have captured stories already. The concept is fascinating to me. I went to the one place I know that helps me navigate trends, Pinterest, and typed in “word”. No sooner did I type that in did the rest follow, “of the year 2020”. A full and long scrolling page built of colorful ideas, sponsored jewelry designs with selected words etched in, and tutorials regarding what to do now that you’ve chosen your word.
Eric and I celebrated 10 married years in November. We’re in year two of the opportune chaos of building a home so when we were invited to catamaran around the British Virgin Islands, we jumped. It was a slow jump and somewhat off beat from each other. I think my legs left the floor first and stayed suspended mid-air for at least 7 minutes before Eric’s knees even bent. Marriage is balance.
We left the day after Christmas, arriving on the boat two days later. For the following week, our only concern was where to moor (moor: attach the boat to a glorified buoy). And it took about 89 seconds for me to wonder where my place was. I’m a mom. That one sentence might strike a resounding chord in your bones and you know exactly what I mean. We take deep breaths together. But you might have read that and thought, Yeh? So what does that mean? It’s this- I’m so used to managing three other lives, behaviors, emotions and routines that when I’m not, it’s almost jarring. What do you do with your time when you, in a sense, can do whatever you want to do?
The week prior to us leaving, I went off all social media with the plan not to finger tap certain apps until after we were home. We tend to cleanse and purge most other areas of our lives, our bodies and our homes and I’ve been guilty of neglecting to cleanse and purge there. Mainly Insta. It’s just so darn convenient. And that’s become my problem. It’s too convenient that I lose myself in time and come to with, “what am I doing?” I knew it was time to reassess my “why” for the gram and being on a boat in the Atlantic seemed like the perfect excuse. Until I didn’t know where I fit. I didn’t know how I could be needed and my two-ness on the Ennea-scale needs the need. Instead of jumping on the gram to fill my head space, I sat in it. I sat, or laid rather, in the net of the bow of the boat like I was filming a less enticing episode of the Bachelor.
Every day we sailed and explored something new and spoiler alert, I wasn’t needed. Not in a pity-seeking way, but in a freedom of existing within a group of adults who can make their own meals, bathe themselves, put themselves down for bed and make choices that don’t involve me interceding because a decision also involved atrocious behavior. I didn’t have to monitor snacks or the treat drawer (yes, we had a treat drawer). This isn’t the first time Eric and I have gone away, but this time felt different. I hadn’t realized how desperate I was until I realized it.
In all the ways I have managed to fill my time, my head space, my relationships and my to-do’s, I’ve been majorly neglecting intimacy. Before you sound the bow chica wow wow alarm, I mean with God. Gotcha! Not so sexy. A friend of ours is due with their first child. She sent a group text to a handful of us, soberly embracing the final trimester. As texts of solidarity and encouragement started flooding in, in response, I thought about how insanely intimate that time was for me with God. Izzy’s birth was 11 hours; Abby’s 14; Finley’s 3 (seems adequate and foretelling if you know my children). We opted for birthing classes with the most wonderfully nurturing and pointed midwife/ doula. She would explain contractions in a way of God physically drawing the baby out. Everything is doing something, she’d say, just focus on the face of Jesus. I kid you not, as intense as labor was, I could sit or stand or pace, and focus in on that one truth, that He was there. No matter how uncomfortable and painful, He was there. With each labor and delivery, He’d show me more. He wasn’t just presently with me, which that in and of itself is a miracle, He was also rejoicing in the creation of life that He constructed and I got to be a part of that. I didn’t love being pregnant, but I loved (brace yourself) birthing my babies. I loved the quiet, intense intimacy of being so desperate and also incredibly found. My core clung to the promise that Jesus was near and the hope that my baby would be healthy. Nothing else in those hours mattered. It’s incredible what God made a woman’s body to endure on ice chips.
Each morning as we sailed to the next island, I’d make my way outside. I can stomach labor pains, but being downstairs when the boat starts moving, nope. The potential seasickness was motivation for me to start my day early. One of us would always have coffee going so I’d grab a mug and sit on a cushioned bench watching the horizon. For between one and three hours each morning, this was my butter. They were not prime reading hours because seasickness, so they became my prayer and contemplation hours and over the course of that week, I realized how very desperate I had been for that time. It was painful some days, replaying situations in my head to better understand my emotions around whatever instance that was. It became uncomfortable as I knew God was asking me to let some things go. He’s good a pruning back the thorns and branches that prohibit new growth. It just sucks sometimes, if I’m being honest. It became humbling to realize all of the other crappolicious things I was placing before obedience, like fear and the things we tell our kids not to worry about. But then we’d get to where we were going and the wind or the rain or the color of the water or a turtle popping up at us, would sound like the end of a counseling appointment. Time’s up! I’d find myself eager for more. Eager for what the next morning held. Eager to see what God was developing.
Cue Soul 2 Soul’s opening chorus of Back to Life, we came home to full motion and the temptation was to move with it. Forgetting those mornings and the opportunity I have to be desperate for God. Forgetting what and how and why He is narrowing, pruning, discerning. But then we all got the flu a few days later and were down for the count for eight days. Between washing and rewashing and sanitizing every single inch of our home, I was reminded how simple desperation looks sometimes. I was desperate to kill every bad germ in our home. I was desperate for my children to sleep soundly through the night. I was desperate for fresh air and my friends and my eye sockets not painfully burning.
Friends, this post is unlike my others. It’s not especially resolved. It’s a big open-ended post with lots of potential, but I needed to write. I’m not sure who needs to hear this or be reminded of these things, but it’s here. Maybe it’s just for me and that’s ok. It’s messy and that’s ok too.
I do think I have a word. Maybe two. My friend Jo has 3 so I’m allowing myself to have multiple also.
Narrow. God is doing some trimming. I feel it. I’m writing this from my bedroom, sitting just below my window looking out to the backyard. Today is sunny, almost deceptively because it’s still only maybe 50 degrees. We have a year-round creek in the back with more blackberry vines than I can see. In a few months we’ll begin trimming those back, maybe burning sections where the weeds and vines are great but they bear no fruit. Some of those vines prohibit others from growing to potential and they need to go. The thing I’m learning with pruning is that God gives us visuals to see when it needs to happen.
Desperate. I want to live here. I want to always be yearning for more of Jesus. And I see this word tailing my first. Maybe.
Thank you for being here.
Soul 2 Soul Back to Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TB54dZkzZOY
(I’d also like to dedicate this post to someone who knew what it looked like to love well. She was a major champion of my writing and so, so encouraging. She is with Jesus now but we remember her and learned so much by her way of love. RIP: S.R.)