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Be Where You Are

When Dave and I began discussing marriage, he was already in the process of joining the Army.  I had plenty of time to decide if life as a military spouse was something I was ready and willing to commit to.  While 20-year-old Jessica probably wouldn’t have even entertained the idea, the previous seven years living on my own, far away from my family, prepared me in ways I couldn’t imagine for the life I was headed towards.  By age 27, when the decision point arrived, I was ready to be open minded.

The idea of moving around every few years unsettled me some, but having experienced two solo-moves to new states, I was fairly confident that I could embrace the transient nature of Army life as an exciting adventure.  What concerned me the most was what I knew about myself: it takes me awhile to warm up, to people, places, and experiences. I knew it would be very likely, given this fact, that I would just be getting comfortable in a place around the time the movers arrived to pack us out and move us on.  And knowing this, I predicted my own defense mechanism: to avoid becoming attached and settled in a place, because I would know it was only temporary.

Given this insight into my own personality, I have tried very hard to live by the mantra “Be Where You Are.”  I’ll readily admit, sometimes I’ve been more successful at this, other times I’ve really struggled.  During our first year in Hawaii, the months between September and Christmas rattled me considerably, because the seasons didn’t change in the way I was used to experiencing them.  I’ve longed for familiar restaurants and typical family traditions when my physical location precluded me from participating. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a sense of loss or grief that comes from not being in a place you love.  But I’ve also seen the damage it can do, when a heart longs so hard for Somewhere Else, that it can’t see the joy and blessing of Right Here Right Now.

What does it mean to Be Where You Are?  As I’ve mulled this over for a few weeks, the following distinctions have come to mind.

Be WHERE You Are

Maybe you’ve moved to a new place, or you’re temporarily relocated from your normal environment.  Be where you are by embracing the physical location where you find yourself.  Don’t spend all your time in a foreign country looking for McDonald’s.  Find a hole-in-the-wall somewhere and sample the local cuisine.  Don’t spend time comparing the place you’re in to the place you’ve been.  It might be out of your comfort zone, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new.  When I moved from New York to Alabama a co-worker shared that she’d been to New York City once with a big tour group, but she was so intimidated by the big city, she refused to get off the bus.  She spent the money and time to drive from south Alabama to one of the greatest cities in the world, and all she experienced was the view from inside a stuffy tour bus.  I found this incredibly sad.

When you move to a new place, it’s natural to compare and contrast where you are with where you just came from.  But if that comparing continues for too long, you find yourself never settling in.  Over time, you lose touch with the place you’ve been, but you never quite fit where you are either.  You remain in a kind of limbo, emotionally homeless. It’s a sensation I’ve experienced and it isn’t pleasant.

The cure: getting involved.  Maybe the community/workplace/family situation/church is bigger/smaller/louder/quieter/busier/more/less than what you’re used to.  It takes time to adjust and figure out the lay of the land, but once you do, jump in!  Find a place to volunteer.  Join a committee.  Attend the extracurricular activities and special events.  Identify a friend or two to act as a guide into unfamiliar territory. (And if, like me, you make some false starts with friendships, keep trying until you find Your People.  They’re there, sometimes it just takes some hunting.)

You don’t have to change your personality or your hobbies entirely, but holding yourself apart as the outsider for too long only leaves you lonely and unhappy. Spending all your time looking back, whether internally or through the lovely/terrible means of social media, can create an invisible wall around you that those in your immediate vicinity feel but can’t quite identify.   Only you can tear down that wall by deciding, “if this is where I’m going to be, I’m going to actually BE here.”

Be Where YOU Are

This is one that I’m currently working through.  Embracing the life stage I’m in for what it is, not expecting it to be something else or wishing it away.  For me, this was a struggle for the 10 years I was a single adult.  I sometimes wish 18-year-old me would have known that I wouldn’t get married until I was 28.  I think I’d have spent a lot less time agonizing over the future and a lot more time enjoying my life.

But the struggle didn’t stop on my wedding day.  Through the different stages of my brief 3 years of motherhood,  I’ve found myself both looking back, to the days of independence I enjoyed before her birth (when I could sleep in on Saturday, when I could eat ice cream without sharing, when I could listen to podcasts in the car without interruption…) and looking forward, to the stages that come next (when she can sleep through the night, when she’s potty trained, when she goes to school, when she can do her own laundry…)

Or, day by day:  when she finally goes to sleep.

Right now, this very moment, I’m struggling with one such change.  Abby is in the process of giving up her afternoon nap.  It means that my routine of the past year, where I do housekeeping chores or errands while she’s at preschool, and write or work on more focused tasks while she naps, needs to be reevaluated.  In the past few weeks I’ve found myself continuously irritated in the afternoons, because I keep trying to make the old routine fit this new stage of our lives.

It doesn’t work. I’m trying to be where I was six months ago, and that is no longer my reality.  It’s time for me to be where we are: in the stage where Abby is three, doesn’t nap in the afternoons, and still needs a lot of my attention.  Holding onto a routine from a previous stage is like trying to cram her little feet in the baby shoes that don’t fit any more. It’s making us both frustrated and miserable.

Be Where You ARE

I don’t think I can write this without a little blurb for “being in the moment.”  There’s been a lot of talk about mindfulness in recent years, and I don’t have a fantastic grasp on it, but I’m working very hard at being present with my people.  Turning off my podcasts in the car to have conversations with Abby.  Leaving my phone in my purse while riding in the passenger seat next to Dave.  Reigning in my mind when it wants to drift away during conversations.  Setting aside my worries and mental to-do list while I’m in the presence of Jesus.

I can mentally-multitask myself into a frazzled frenzy with very little effort.  Being present is hard.  But I know it’s important, and I am committed to continue growing in this area.

BE Where You Are

Recently when I was in Oklahoma for Thanksgiving, I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Barron Longstreth teach and preach at The Church Today.  On Sunday morning his incredibly convicting lesson was entitled Stewarding the Now Moments. (The notes I jotted down were the impetus for this blog post to start tumbling around in my brain.) He talked about the life of Joseph, and how each seeming setback in his journey was really a progression of preparation for the responsibility and promise awaiting him.  But Joseph had decision points all along the way: he could choose to steward those opportunities well, or squander them.  We know that Joseph chose to make the most of every position he occupied. From the pit, to Potiphar’s house, to prison, he stewarded his Now and was prepared for what came Then. As Pastor Longstreth pointed out, when the butcher and baker brought up their dreams, Joseph didn’t respond, “Yeah, well I had a dream once, look where it got me!”  He was able to steward that moment well, and he saw the results, even though it took another two years.

Like Joseph, I also have dreams.  They might not be of family members or celestial beings bowing down before me, but they are ideas and goals I believe God has impressed into my spirit.  Dave and I have dreams together, places we believe God is leading us and things He’s promised us.  Right now, right here where we are, it doesn’t make complete sense. So how do we steward our Now moments?

By being where we are.  Being dedicated.  Being disciplined.  Being kind.  Being consistent.  Being wise. Being faithful.  By being students of the Word, and our leaders. By being growers of our faith, and our individual skillsets.

Doing the things that are set before us today, letting go of the past like trees let go of their autumn leaves in preparation for winter snow.  Knowing that we don’t have room to hold the past and future together with the present.  Releasing unmet expectations and dreams that we feel died too soon.  Embracing the unknown of a future walking by faith.

We accomplish all this by being HERE, where we are right now.  Doing the work in front of us today, trusting and believing what we see reiterated countless times in His Word: God accomplishes His Big Picture Plan through the mundane, everyday moments of our lives, if we choose to partner with Him.

Whether it’s a physical location or a life stage, a permanent circumstance or a temporary one, wherever I find myself, I want to be there with all that I am.

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On Stewarding My Time and Being a Work In Progress

One of the challenges I’m finding in writing this Stewardship Series is my general internal sense that I need to have a problem completely figured out and broken down into comprehensive bullet points before I share about it publicly.  The idea of sharing incorrect information or steering someone the wrong way makes my insides go all squirmy.

But the more I think about this, the more I see the impracticality of saving all my blog ideas until I have them fully field tested and all the kinks worked out. Mainly, that imposing such a standard of perfection on myself would result in very little ever getting written.  But also that it kind of defeats the point.  Part of my reason for sharing about my journey toward intentional stewardship is for the accountability it provides.  I know that I’ll need things to write about, and that gives me motivation to follow through on the goals I want to accomplish when the initial impetus wears off.  In addition,  some of my favorite bloggers and social media follows are those who share the process, and aren’t afraid to come back later to give a recap of what worked well and what didn’t. So I’m going to try and take a page out of their book today.

This week I planned to talk about stewarding my time, and wouldn’t you know it…this week has been a complete disaster in the time management department.  Abby came down with a stomach virus late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, which meant my Sunday was spent caring for her, and then Monday I got to take my turn.  And while the bug itself seems to have been a less-than-24-hour variety, bouncing back has proved much more challenging for me than I would have expected. So there have been a lot of naps and not many chores getting accomplished around here, not to mention very little work or writing.

So, while the tips and ideas aren’t things I’ve fully utilized or implemented this week, they are what I’m looking at going forward toward better time stewardship in the weeks and months ahead.

What’s Working

I’ve talked a bit before about how habit formation, for me, is about making a decision once so I don’t have to make it over and over.  Areas where I’ve formed (mostly) consistent habits with managing my time are:

  • Getting up before Abby – this gives my Non-Morning-Person brain time to slowly power-on before I need to interact with my Super-Morning-Person toddler.  I can’t overstate how much of an impact this one habit has made on my overall attitude and outlook for the day.
  • Using car rides as connection time – I started this at some point during Abby’s 2-year-old Pre-K program so we’ve been at it consistently for over a year.  In the mornings, Abby and I listen to a playlist of her favorite songs, play “Tanderup Spy,” talk about what she’s going to do at school, and practice memorizing Scripture.  I am hopeful that setting the expectation early that I’m available to her in the car will prove fruitful as she grows older.

There are a few other areas where I’m trying to build similar habits, but haven’t been at them long enough or consistently enough to call them successes yet.

  • Leaving my phone off for one hour after I wake up – I’ve only tried this a couple times, but it’s where I plan to focus this month. Too often that extra time I give myself in the morning is spent scrolling Instagram instead of reading my Bible, journaling, praying, or even chatting with Dave.  All of those are much more life-giving ways to start my day than staring at my phone screen.
  • Deleting my social media apps one day a week – This is another idea I’ve only tried once or twice (I wrote about an impromptu social media break I took last year) but I definitely see the benefit.  The biggest thing I noticed the last time I tried this: once I got back on Instagram and Facebook to “catch up,” I really hadn’t missed anything significant.
  • Working out in the morning – I’m going into my second round of the FASTer Way to Fat Loss (you can read my post about Round 1 here) and I want to incorporate more of the workouts this round.  During the first round I found if I prep ahead the night before and leave unloading the dishwasher until later in the day, I have enough time to get in the workout and a shower before I take Abby to preschool.  Once I’m back to normal energy-wise, I plan to pick this back up again.

What I’m Considering

There are several ideas I’m considering for time management, but haven’t begun implementing yet.

  • Using preschool mornings exclusively for work – Dave and I discussed this, and I’ve tried it a few times.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it.  As things have been going, I’ve used my solo-mornings for grocery shopping, resetting the house, and other chores or errands, and then fit in other work where I could.  In theory, it makes sense to use that time to dedicate to writing, planning for the blog, etc. and then move on to cleaning, errands, and other chores in the afternoon when Abby is home.  In practice, I have a hard time sitting down and focusing when there are still dishes in the sink.  Which is where the next idea might come in handy.
  • Creating Theme Days – This idea involves listing out all the myriad tasks you have to complete each week, and sorting them into categories.  Then you focus on only one category a day. I’ve heard Meg Tietz discuss how she uses this method on Episode 161 of the Sorta Awesome podcast, and Emily P. Freeman also devoted an entire show to it this past week on her podcast, The Next Right Thing.  This one requires some consideration, because my schedule for freelance interpreting isn’t consistent.  But in terms of “deciding once,” I could see this being helpful for reducing the amount of time I putter around, unable to decide where to start working when I .
  • Adding an hour of phone free time to the evening – Similar to my intention to start the day without staring at a screen, I like the idea of ending the day with an hour of rest for my eyes and brain as well.  Likely, adding this habit to my evenings will be harder than the morning, but I think the Bedtime feature on my iPhone could help with establishing this  habit.
  • Re-configuring my iPhone for efficiency – I heard about this article on iphone modifications, (from…surprise, surprise! another podcast) and I’m slowly working my way through it.  Like most people these days, my phone is my biggest distraction.  Making it work for me instead of letting it boss me around sounds like a healthy shift.

Preaching to Myself

I can make plans, and “decide once,” but with time, there is always change.  My time and my schedule will continually have to be modified to fit school hours and work times and outside expectations beyond my control.  In some ways that is good for me.  Having unlimited time with no structure is just overwhelming to me.  Having limited spaces in my calendar with which to do my work is actually helpful for me when I’m planning.  What I need to remember (and  remind myself all the time) is that I’ll be “deciding once” over and over again for the rest of my life, and that’s okay.

I’m trying to look at my time the way I’ve learned to look at money, and how I’m beginning to look at food.  A budget, or a plan, doesn’t limit my options or restrain me from doing what I want.  Instead, it gives me freedom from worry and stress, because the decision about what needs to be done and when I should do it has already been made.

As with most of the items on my goals list this year, becoming a more intentional steward of my resources is not only about being responsible to someone else.  It’s about the peace I usher into my own life.  Because stewardship honors God.  And His ways are always for my good.

 

Follow @theindecisivemama on Instagram for more thoughts on Stewardship, as well as other ramblings throughout the week.  I’ve recently created a Story Highlight called Conversations with Abby Grace, where I share some of the things that make me laugh on this journey of motherhood.  Just click the circle titled CWAG on my profile page!

And don’t miss the other installments of the Stewardship Series:

Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why

Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why, Part 2

Stewarding My Physical Health : The FASTer Way

Journaling: An Exercise for My Spiritual Health

Stewarding My Voice

Why Stewardship?

 

Stewardship Series

Stewarding My Voice

Of all the traits I inherited from my Papa Sam…my sense of humor…my love of crossword puzzles…and maybe even my affinity for coffee (though that didn’t show up until after he was gone…) the one I most fully embrace is the adage he taught me, “You don’t have to tell everything you know.”

Continue reading “Stewarding My Voice”

Stewardship Series

Journaling: An Exercise for My Spiritual Health

Welcome back to the next installment of the Stewardship Series!

If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, you can always go back and catch up!

This week I’m shifting gears a bit from the focus on how I’m stewarding my physical health to take a look at one of my favorite spiritual disciplines: journaling.

Continue reading “Journaling: An Exercise for My Spiritual Health”

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Stewarding My Physical Health : The FASTer Way

This post is Part 3 of the Stewardship Series.  If you missed them, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 on Stewarding My Physical Health.

If you’ve been reading along about my journey to steward my physical health, you know why I’m starting my year of stewardship with losing weight: this is, for me, as much a spiritual issue as it is an issue of diet and exercise.

Today I want to talk about how I’m approaching the challenge to steward my physical and spiritual health, here in the early months of 2019.  For the past 4 weeks, I’ve been participating in the FASTer Way to Fat Loss.

Continue reading “Stewarding My Physical Health : The FASTer Way”

Stewardship Series, Uncategorized

Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why, Part 2

Welcome to the Stewardship Series.  In 2019 my focus is on intentionally stewarding the gifts and talents God has entrusted to me.  This series will highlight the nine areas of stewardship I identified in my 2019 goals: my physical and spiritual health, my marriage and motherhood, my relationships with friends and family, my home, my time online, and my voice.  I pray this series encourages you, as we grow together as stewards. 

steward: (n.) a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something (ie. another’s property.) 

Welcome to Part 2 of Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why!  In Part 1 I talked about the practical reasons I’m starting this year of stewardship by focusing on my physical health.  But while feeling better, looking better, and avoiding future health issues are all on my list, those aren’t the biggest reasons.

God has been dealing with me for probably the last 7 years.  He’s been trying to tell me that my spiritual health and my physical health are intrinsically tied together.

Continue reading “Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why, Part 2”

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Speaking the Truth in Love

A law was passed in New York state this week, legalizing abortion into the third trimester.  (I encourage you, if you haven’t heard of this, or if you’ve only seen the social media reaction, to read this article from CBS News.  It gives a concise description of what has changed in the NY law, as well as thoughts and opinions from people who support, as well as those who oppose, the legislation.)

The reaction on my social media feeds has been what I would expect: shock, disgust, and calls for a return to godly morals and lifestyle.

I wrote a post yesterday in response to those reactions and it quickly became the most widely shared and read of any of the words I’ve ever written.  The vast majority of the comments I received were positive, but there were a few comments that led me to feel the need to clarify my position.

I am not a proponent of abortion.  I believe unborn babies are in fact, babies.  I don’t believe the location of an infant (whether inside the womb or outside) changes his or her inherent value.  I believe God is the author of life, and the only One who should decide when a life ends.

My post yesterday was not to say I support the new law, or feel Christians should just sit idly by when immoral and ungodly changes are happening in our society.

What disturbed me, and what prompted me to write the post was the language I saw used to discuss this topic.  This feeling of unease is not new to me.  I feel it often, when issues of great political or social controversy are in the news.  I feel it when the issue is same-sex marriage, immigration, politicians and Supreme Court nominees being accused of sexual assault…fill in the blank.  You get the idea.

Abortion is the issue at hand, but it’s not really the focus of my writing, either yesterday or today.

I’m focused on HOW we are talking about these topics, specifically, the PEOPLE involved.

Continue reading “Speaking the Truth in Love”

Stewardship Series, Uncategorized

Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why

Welcome to the Stewardship Series.  In 2019 my focus is on intentionally stewarding the gifts and talents God has entrusted to me.  This series will highlight the nine areas of stewardship I identified in my 2019 goals: my physical and spiritual health, my marriage and motherhood, my relationships with friends and family, my home, my time online, and my voice.  I pray this series encourages you, as we grow together as stewards. 

steward: (n.) a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something (ie. another’s property.) 

Warning: incredibly vulnerable post ahead.  I’m kicking off this series by telling you about my journey with my weight, and why stewarding my physical health is an area of focus for me this year.

I want to be clear…this is all about ME and does not speak to anyone else’s journey, struggles, or issues with weight, weight loss, diet culture, eating disorders, etc.  I know everyone fights their own fight in this area, and my struggles pale in comparison to many. I know you could look at this post, roll your eyes and say “that girl has no clue!” I hope you won’t, but I understand.

I still feel like I need to share this, if only for myself. Sometimes we can’t move forward without looking back on how we got to where we are.

Continue reading “Stewarding My Physical Health: The Why”