Home and Family, My Awakening

“You’re Good.”

Self awareness and growth are two aspects of life that I value very much. But, they are not always easy and often come with some discomfort. The last couple weeks have been full of personal epiphanies and a fair amount of tears.

When I realized that I’m a Perfectionist, or an Enneagram Type 1, it helped clarify a lot of aspects of how I process thoughts and feelings. I definitely related to the desire to control and the harsh inner critic that is constantly telling me what I should do or what could be done better. I related less intensely to the passion of this type which is resentment or repressed anger. Also, I didn’t focus on the desire to “be good” and take responsibility for everything.

Through a recent situation at work, I recognized that I’d spun quite a story in order to preserve my belief that I was good and right. As I unpacked what happened and how I’d responded, it was very apparent that being “good” was the motivation behind my behavior. I’ve also come to see how often I take responsibility for the outcome of situations that are really not under my control. This isn’t the best quality as a manager, since one of my primary jobs is to hold others accountable for their work performance!

As I’ve been processes these experiences, I’ve spent a lot of time praying. I’ve been feeling unsettled and realized that I’ve strayed from many of my mindfulness practices that help me stay in the moment. Instead, I’ve been fused with my thoughts, aka “stuck in my head”. This is the pattern of my life. Surrendering and letting go usually takes a few days of prayer, defusing my thoughts, and accepting my feelings.

This morning, bright and early, I sat outside and read the Bible and a few pages of Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island. Merton describes “pure intention” as the desire for God’s will and “impure intention” as the desire for your own will. This passage struck me powerfully:

Only a pure intention can be clear-sighed and prudent. The man of impure intention is hesitant and blind. Since he is always caught between two conflicting wills, he cannot make simple and clear-cut decisions. He has twice as much to think about as the man who seeks only the will of God, since he has to worry about his own will and God’s will at the same time. He cannot be really happy, because happiness is impossible without interior freedom, and we do not have interior freedom to do what we please without anxiety, unless we take pleasure in nothing but the will of God.

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Wow. When Dennis and the kids came out to the backyard a few minutes later, I read them this passage and asked Dennis, “Can you read me this every morning?” He replied, “Let’s post it up all over the house!” He knows me well.

Sienna asked me what that passage meant. As I described it, I explained, “Sometimes I really like to feel in control, but it pits my will against God’s, which causes me a lot of unnecessary frustration and anxiety.” She looked at me with her big brown eyes (I swear that child looks straight into my soul) and simply said, “You’re good.” Those words touched something inside me as I’d recently come to know how deeply I desire to be good. Tears sprang to my eyes as I gave her a hug.

These tender moments of connection truly give life meaning. These are the moments that I miss when I’m “in my head” being all efficient and under control. While a desire to “be good” is a helpful trait, it can quickly become all consuming. Always being good is impossible and leads me away from dependence on Christ’s righteousness and grace. God is good and His will is perfect.

All my seeking and striving finally rest when I rest in God.

Home and Family, My Awakening

Intention WITH Action.

While on a prayerful run Saturday morning, I let my thoughts ebb and flow. I’d returned from a three-night work trip where I had several epiphanies about my identity as a leader and how I choose to spend my time. Suddenly, a phrase popped into my head: “Intention without action.” Hmm, interesting. For the past couple years, I’d been thinking about living intentionally. Just that week, I’d heard myself tell my Team that I had intended to do something that I’d neglected to do. A lot of good intentions do! In order to be a strong manager and leader, I need to take action. Intentions are very similar to plans, they are a good starting point, but meaningless if not put into action.

Years ago, I had a similar realization that life happens in the here-and-now. Instead of getting all caught up in my thoughts, plans (and intentions!), the fullness of life occurs when I focus my attention and awareness on doing something, or taking action. This is especially true when it comes to building relationships. All the good thoughts within my mind about a person or how our relationship could improve never make an impact on the other person! They only know my heart by the things I do.

After my run, Sienna and I had a mother/daughter date, starting at the hairdresser. As we were getting ready to leave and outlining out day, she said, “And then, we can come home and rearrange the pictures on my walls, right?” I agreed we would. After a fun and full day, I’d started to settle into an evening of reading outside when Sienna reminded me about her bedroom project. So, I mustered up the energy to put my book down and go into her room. As she started to explain her vision, I could feel a little resentment simmering inside. I wanted to read and retreat into my own little world.

Thankfully, a small little voice (the Holy Spirit most likely!) suddenly reminded me of my morning lesson: What you really want is to spend time with Sienna. That intention doesn’t build a relationship, these actions do. Be here now. We proceeded to spend over an hour rearranging the art on her walls and matting several of her drawings onto card stock so they’d look more uniform and artistic as a group. She was delighted and the finished room is beautiful!

Just as we were finishing up in Sienna’s room, Mateo burst into tears. That morning he and Dennis had seen The Art of Racing in the Rain and several of the images were “scary” to him. It’s a really emotional film and he was having a hard time processing all the real life drama. I sat with Teo for quite awhile, just letting him cry and reminding him to breathe! Sienna started trying to cheer him up. We moved outside to the fire pit, where Sienna retold him stories from the Ramona Quimby books. Teo started giggling through his tears. Then they got blankets out and read together. I hated to have to break-up this sweet, bonding moment when it was way past their (already late!) summer bedtime.

“That was nice of Sienna to cheer you up,” I said to Teo as he was getting into bed.

“Yeah, it really helped,” he’d simply replied with the sweetest smile.

The next morning at church, I whispered into Sienna’s ear: “You were such a kind big sister to Teo last night.” She smiled.

Witnessing this interaction, I was reminded again that relationships are built on action. If Sienna had just intended to be a loving sister or thought loving words about her brother while he was sad, it would not have much impact on Mateo or his perception of their relationship. Instead, by putting her love into action through storytelling and reading for him, she conveyed love and care much more than words or intentions ever could.

Over the past six years, mantras have been very helpful for me as I practice letting go of control and being present. “Intention without action” didn’t have quite the right ring to it. As I prayed about this simple phrase, it transformed into an affirmative statement: “Intention WITH action”. Much better! I’m going to post this reminder in various spots so I’ll remember to put my intentions into action by doing the things that will build relationships, both at home and at work.

Happy Monday everyone! May today be full of meaningful actions for you.

Home and Family

Fun Ways to Pass the Time on Family Road Trips…

Who doesn’t love a good family road trip?! We are big fans and our little ones are pretty good travelers. However, since we’re a decidedly low-tech family and don’t bring any screens along, we inevitably need some games or activities to pass the time. On our way back from Arizona last year, Mateo asked us to tell him “everything that happened” between our wedding and his birth. That tale passed a lot of time! Another fun car activity is just listening to music. I have the fondest memories of little Teo singing along with Alan Jackson to “When Somebody Loves You”. Alan Jackson is our favorite!

This year, we stumbled upon a couple new “games”. Teo came up with the first one, which we’re dubbing The Favorites Game. We each took turns coming up with a category, such as “type of dog” or “color” or “tree” then everyone went around the car sharing their favorites. We covered several topics, including state in the U.S., country, song, movie, etc. You get the idea! Although Dennis had to be somewhat prodded into playing along, this is actually pretty fun and insightful!

The other activity isn’t really a game, but the kids kept referring to it that way. As we were listening to Pandora, whichever adult wasn’t driving became the D.J. while we took turns requesting songs. Obviously, this can go on for hours! The variety of music was really fun as Teo methodically chose every Journey song he knew then several Queen songs. Dennis kept us guessing with selections from various genres and eras. Sienna kept choosing musical numbers from the new Aladdin movie and the animated ballet movie Leap!

Part of the fun is anticipating what each other will select. It’s also fun to plan ahead to what surprising song you’ll request next. The kids kept exclaiming things like: “I know the next three songs I’m going to pick!” At one point, as we approached Oxnard, I thought to myself: I’ll pick Green Day’s “21 Guns” next. A minute later it was Dennis’s turn and he chose 21 Guns! “Crazy, I was just thinking of that song!” I exclaimed.

As we sat in Southern California summer weekend traffic on our return trip home, our musical request “game” morphed into something new. Dennis chose a song from the Les Miserables movie soundtrack, which prompted the kids to start asking about the story. We ended up playing nearly the entire soundtrack while taking mini breaks between songs to explain what was happening and filling in context. This was super fun! Since we’ve really fallen in love with musicals, this will surely provide hours of entertainment in future family road trips!

What games or activities do you play on road trips?

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

Tender Moments Abound

Yesterday evening, Dennis, Teo and I did a boxing workout in our very hot garage.  The guys had been talking about getting a heavy bag for months and then they went on sale at the local sporting goods store. So, they got their wish and a 100 pound heavy bag now dominates our garage.  When the kids were up in Humboldt earlier this summer, I did my first workout with Dennis and really enjoyed it!

With the Rocky soundtrack in the background, we rotated rounds on the bag and I got such a kick out of watching Mateo punch!  He is pretty coordinated and loves all kinds of physical activity.  It’s really cool to watch the dynamic when Dennis is teaching Teo how to do something or encouraging his efforts. Teo really likes to do what’s expected and do it well.  When I’m teaching him something, I can feel our inner perfectionists colliding and it doesn’t bring out the best in either of us.  Whereas, Dennis is just matter-of-fact and unemotional as he coaches and teaches. I feel such peace when they’re interacting, like I can just step back and rest.

Taking in the moment, I couldn’t help but lament at how big Mateo looks now – especially while wailing away on a 100 pound heavy bag!  At one point Dennis and I locked eyes after he’d just reminded Teo to “Keep your wrist straight!” and we both smiled.  There’s truly nothing like the bond of two parents sharing love and devotion for this particular child.  I quipped, “These are the days of our lives” and Dennis solemnly nodded.  This is our shorthand for reminding ourselves that we’re going to look back on these days with longing when the kids grow up and leave our nest.

Later in the evening, I sat in the reading chair in our bedroom while Sienna was in the shower.  Suddenly, through the noise of falling water, I noticed she was singing “True Colors”.  Oh how I love her sweet singing voice!  I put my book down and just listened, knowing I was fortunate to hear this private moment.  My mom is a singer and she has encouraged Sienna to sing, praising her beautiful voice.  I’ve also encouraged her, but she’s reluctant to perform in front of people.  I reflected on her nervousness about performing as I listened to her sing:

I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful 

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This morning, Sienna has to get up early for math tutoring so I went into her room to wake her up.  As I gently stroked her face, she smiled and asked me to stay a minute.  I cuddled up next to her and kept running my hand over her forehead.  The lyrics to “True Colors” were still running through my head, so I softly sang the chorus to her.

“I sure loved hearing you sing last night,” I told her.

“I love you too, Mommy” she replied.

There are so many sweet, sacred moments of connection available to us each day.  I can often get caught up in the routines of work, household chores, exercise, preparing meals, reading, and all the rest.  When I slow down and pay full attention to the present, to my family and the life unfolding around me, tender moments abound.

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

A More Meaningful Morning…

I have a little buddy with me at the office today.  Sienna came along to work for the morning!  It’s time sheet day, so a chunk of my morning was spent reviewing time sheets and getting them submitted to payroll, so it seemed like a good morning for a visit.  She brought along her math book and a couple books to read.  We also recently discovered a math flashcard app, so she’s been practicing her multiplication facts on the phone.

It’s fun having her here!  It makes my regular routine of making coffee, reading my daily devotion, reviewing emails, and moderating the morning call with my Team all take on new meaning.  She asked about the time sheets, so I described what I was reviewing and what it all meant.  When I applied my electronic signature to the document, Sienna exclaimed “Wow, you’re good at that!”.  Oh, the innocence and enthusiasm of youth!

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Sometimes I look at life from my kids’ perspective and it gives the moment an entirely new meaning.  This is just another Monday in the office for me, made more fun and engaging by my daughter’s presence.  When Sienna looks back on her childhood, she’ll have fond memories of being in her mom’s office.  She had pieces of candy as part of her breakfast and made a cup of hot chocolate along with my coffee at the Keurig machine.  She’s now drawing a picture of our house and family on my whiteboard so I can look at it fondly when I’m at the office.

These sweet little moments are the good stuff.  I love being present and mindful enough to truly notice them.

Books Worth Reading, Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

Each of us is unfinished.

When Dennis and I got married, we were already nostalgic about the life that lay ahead of us.  One of our wedding songs was “Remember When” by Alan Jackson.  It’s such a sweet song about a couple looking back on the milestones of their life together, from a vantage point of their senior years.  One line says, “Remember when thirty seemed so old…” which was funny to me, being that I was just shy of 25 years old when we got married!

I’ve often been told that I’m an “old soul” and I relate to that idea.  The feeling of looking back over my life nostalgically feeds something deep within me.  I just finished reading a book that brought all this up: A Year By the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson.  It’s a memoir of Joan’s year of separation from her husband as she hunkered down in their Cape Cod cottage to rediscover herself after a lifetime of taking care of her kids, husband, house, etc.

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Many of the lessons Joan learns during her year by the sea felt so familiar as they echoed my own awakening.  She has a perfectionist streak that she had to release and spent a lot of time “in her head” and disconnected from her body and feelings.  A mantra that I repeat to myself often is “why don’t I wait and see…?” This is a reminder that I don’t know how I will feel later or how a situation will unfold, and I don’t have to try to control it either.  Joan says: “In the words of Picasso, ‘I find, I do not seek.’ No longer desperate to know every outcome, these days I tend to wait and see, a far more satisfying way of being that lacks specificity and instead favors experience over analysis.”  Oh, so good!

In another passage, Joan is reflecting upon her relationship with her adult sons and their wives.  She describes the challenge of knowing where she fits in their lives as her role transitions from guide to supporter.  Joan shares that her sons seem reluctant to share their struggles or failures with their parents: “It occurs to me that I will continue to know my children less if they think I want them to be more.  Seeking perfection is a terrible thing when it robs you of truth.” Although Sienna and Mateo are still many years from leaving the nest, this reminder felt so poignant.  They both want to please Dennis and me very much.  As the years unfold, I hope to communicate openness and acceptance to them, along with encouraging their striving for excellence.

For many years, my striving for control could also be described as trying to “figure everything out”.  I’d often get this unsettled, seeking feeling that I finally recognized was that desire to figure something out.  Now, I realize that no one ever has it all figured out.  Life is constantly changing.  We are constantly growing and embracing the next phase of life.  There are certainly aspects to each of us that are unchanging and constant, but life serves up plenty of new experiences, circumstances, and lessons to learn.

Joan refers to this idea as being unfinished.  I love that word!  It denotes the opposite of being “all figured out” or complete.  As she and her husband reconcile, Joan concludes her year by the sea with this line: “Like me, he is on a new path.  I can only sit by and honor what is unfinished in him – in all of us.”  This line touched my heart, as Dennis and me are embarking on a new chapter of our life together.

At the end of June, Dennis “retired” from the law firm he worked at for almost 30 years!  He’s now going to be a “stay-at-home Dad” to our children.  The timing is great as my job now involves a fair amount of travel throughout Southern California. The past few weeks we’ve spent a lot of time sharing our hopes and dreams for the future and discussing the practicalities of this change in our routine.  The feelings of partnership and commitment have overflowed.

The other night, we were watching Frozen with the kids and I cuddled in next to Dennis on the couch.  Sienna looked at us and said, “You two are so cute!”  For some reason, this little exchange was so fulfilling.  As much as we focus on our children, they will eventually grow up and start their own lives.  When they do, Dennis and me need to have a strong relationship that will help us transition into the “empty nest” stage of life.

Maybe this is the benefit of looking at your life from the “old soul” perspective of experience?  This current stage of life, as wonderful and all-consuming as it is, will eventually pass and we’ll be looking back on it nostalgically.  The relationships we’re building now will, (God willing!) be the foundations of our lives then.  All the little seeds we sow, from daily connection with our spouse, to the acceptance we show our children, we will eventually reap later in life.  Each of us is unfinished.  How exciting to watch it all unfold!

Home and Family, Uncategorized

Slow Down

Last Friday I attended a Mother’s Day program at the kids’ school.  After each grammar school grade presented either a poem or a song about mothers, Jean, the Head of School, read a very sweet book to us called Let Me Hold You a Little Longer by Karen Kingsbury.  It was a cool twist on looking back on your children’s younger years.  Instead of remembering all their “firsts” it spoke of being present and mindful for all of their “lasts” – the last hit they had in Little League, the last time they came to your bed to sleep, the last time you cuddled up with them to read a story.

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There wasn’t a dry eye in the place… well, at least in the first couple rows!  I sat in the second row, right behind the reserved seating for the moms of all the Seniors.  I thought it was so cool they came to this event, since none of their students were likely in the grammr school any longer. Apparently this annual event was one they wanted to cherish one last time.  As the women in front of me passed tissues between themselves, I was even more overwhelmed with emotions.  Their kids are truly experiencing so many “lasts” this year and they’re watching them launch into the world.  It’s so hard to let go.

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If that wasn’t enough, our heart strings were further tugged when they started a slide show of pictures of all the students.  They played a couple songs that were extremely poignant.  The first one stuck with me, so I looked it up later and played it repeatedly over Mother’s Day weekend.   The song is Slow Down by Nichole Nordeman.  The lyrics that always get me are:

Had to crawl before you walked
Before you ran
Before I knew it
You were trying to free your fingers from my hand
‘Cause you could it on your own now
Somehow, slow down

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I’d decided to take Friday off of work, for a much needed personal day!  The program was in the morning and I could think of several different ways to spend the rest of the day.  But, I finally felt inspired to pull out all my scrapbooking supplies and start on Mateo’s scrapbook.  Last year I got Sienna’s first 18 months finished and into a book, but I hadn’t started Mateo’s at all yet.  It had been on my list of goals for two years already!  All it took was  slowing down and letting myself feel the sadness of his young childhood passing to prioritize this important, but obviously not urgent, task.

Oh man, looking back at baby Teo is such a joy!  Sometimes I lament the fact that I wasn’t as present and capable of being in the moment when he was a baby.  But, then I remember all the time I spent singing to him and rocking him to sleep.  I was there. I was present.

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When I think back on my children’s baby and toddler years, even though this was the season where I controlled my feelings and spent too much time in my head, I always adored being with Sienna and Mateo.  They were able to ground me like nothing else.  Even now, as I’ve learned to be present, my kids are my daily touchstone to the here-and-now.  They are perpetually in the moment.  I love hearing their thoughts, seeing their expressions, and just watching them learn and grow through the ebbs and flows of life.  It’s the best.

But, it’s true, I often wish that time would somehow slow down.

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

It’s all worth it.

I had the wonderful opportunity to receive training this week in Chicago, along with some of the ladies on my Team.  The training was awesome and I loved getting the chance to spend time with Corinna, Brandi and Rachel as we all work to grow our management skills.  Actually, it’s misleading to say we were in Chicago!  Our flights landed at O’Hare but then we went straight to a southern suburb for the two days of training.  It rained most of our visit, thus we didn’t venture out to the city.  I never even saw the Chicago skyline!

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Getting home on Thursday night late, I didn’t get much sleep before having to be at work Friday morning.  Most of the day involved a long meeting with folks from corporate and our local office to discuss a process that’s transitioning from my plate, now that I’ve taken on managing the entire Admin Team.  It was draining for me – emotionally and mentally.  By the grace of God, I was able to stay present and engage appropriately.  It was hard because earlier in the week, I had to be assertive to get upper management to understand that this role HAD to be reassigned to someone else.  I’d been trying to get this message across for months, but clearly compromised too much and therefore they continued to expect me to fulfill the role!  So, in this half-day meeting I had to navigate the dance between being helpful in the transition while stepping back from taking on too much responsibility.

Then, all these meetings and discussions went long and I didn’t make it to Teo’s class party to help out. Fortunately the Room Mom and I chatted the week before.  When I told her I’d just be getting back from Chicago on Thursday night, she said she wouldn’t count on me to help with the party, if I could just bring her the veggies and treats before I left.  Good thinking, Room Mom!

Friday afternoon we needed to run an errand before Sienna and I went to a slumber party.  I was looking forward to helping for the evening and spending time with friends, but I was tired.  Also, the errand was making us late for the party, which made me uncomfortable and frustrated.  The kids and Dennis could see that I was flustered as we rushed through Target and I had several moments of prayer and defusion to keep myself from losing it.  “Kelsey, it’s fine.  You’re going to be late but Kristi will understand.  You do not want to take your frustration out on your family,” I told myself.

Finally, Sienna and I were driving to the party.  She’s big enough to sit in the front seat now!  I was still working to get out of my head, with all the thoughts of the workday swirling around my mind.  Suddenly, Sienna touched my arm gently and said, “Thank you.”

“Thank you for what, Lovie?” I asked.

“For everything.  For the Cambridge School. For everything,” she replied as I looked into her big brown eyes.

“Oh, you’re so welcome,” I said as tears started to flow beneath my sunglasses.

I took a very deep breath and exhaled, thanking God for this loving and wise little daughter who so often reminds me of what’s important in life.  Her simple words of gratitude made me feel seen and appreciated.  These days of busyness with work, school, and family life are all for a reason.  It’s okay for me to be tired and not have it all together, all the time.  What fuels my efforts is love for my sweet children and loving husband.  It’s all worth it.

Home and Family, Lutheranism, Uncategorized

You Are What You Love

The beginning of a New Year is the highpoint of self-actualization rhetoric in American culture and I typically jump in with both feet.  The idea that we can change our habits and routines so everything stays in perfect balance and we’ll be thinner, fitter, happier and more productive this year than last year is so enticing!  But, for a reformed hyper-planner and self-aware Type 1 perfectionist, this time of year is a very slippery slope for me.

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Sure enough, the past few weeks, I’ve been “in my head” and less in touch with my heart; relying on myself instead of God, expecting everything to work out just right if I plan properly, and missing the moments of connection all around me.  However, simultaneously I’ve been reading a very interesting and helpful book: You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith.  Our pastor, who recently moved across the country, preached from this book for several weeks before he left last year.  I loved the sermons and looked forward to deepening my understanding of how our loves are shaped by liturgical practices, both inside and outside the church.

Dr. Smith argues: “In ways that are more “modern” than biblical, we have been taught to assume that human beings are fundamentally thinking things.”  Most of our efforts toward discipleship focus on collecting information as if “we can think our way to holiness – sanctification by information transfer.”  This approach is diametrically opposed to biblical wisdom, where Jesus continually refers to the human heart as the center of our being.  Of Christ, Smith states, “He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; he is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, your longings.”

This argument really hit home when Smith asked “Do you ever experience a gap between what you know and what you do?  Have you ever found that new knowledge and information don’t seem to translate into a new way of life?”  I imagine everyone who’s currently struggling with maintaining a health related resolution has experienced just this gap!  We know what is healthy, but that doesn’t mean we always do it!  Smith goes on to suggest: “What if it’s because you aren’t just a thinking thing?”  Indeed, what if our “epicenter of human identity” is what Augustine articulated when he said, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you…”?

Smith goes on to describe the Augustinian alternative: “…since our hearts are made to find their end in God, we will experience a besetting anxiety and restlessness when we try to love substitutes.  To be human is to have a heart.  You can’t not love. So the question isn’t whether you will love something as ultimate; the question is what you will love as ultimate. And you are what you love.”

If loves aren’t cultivated by information transfer, in other words, we can’t collect ideas in order to transform our loves.  How are our hearts oriented?  Smith explains that loves are shaped over time by the liturgical practices in our lives.  Rival liturgies are the habits we have, which over time shape what we perceive as the “good life” or the end to which our life is headed.  The book includes a lengthy metaphor of the shopping mall as the modern “church” in America; illustrating how everything from the cathedral style architecture to the economic transaction at the altar of consumerism.  It’s really interesting and comical too.  I could relate to the feeling of aimlessly strolling through a mall (or more commonly Target!) looking for something that I “need”.

The biggest takeaway from this book, for me, is the idea that what we ultimately love and desire is shaped, over time, by our daily habits.  If our family routinely spends the weekend shopping, then being a consumer is what we cultivate as “the good life”.  If we watch television each evening, our worldview is shaped to mirror that which we see in popular culture.  If we read classic, wholesome books with our children, then their desires are shaped by things that are good, true, and timeless.  When we pray before dinner, attend the Divine Service each week, read before bed, and spend time as a family, our loves are oriented toward God and family.  These little daily habits shape what we value, desire, love and ultimately you are what you love.

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

The One About Sewing Four Dresses.

Recently I renewed a prayer that helped me learn to trust God and be more present in the moment: “Lord, please keep me on this path of growth and help me learn the lessons you want me to know.” God is faithful and he’s been teaching me lessons at every turn the past couple weeks.

When I’m in a period of growth, I often recall the expression “growing pains” because usually there’s some pain or discomfort in the process. I’ve also recognized that a lot of self-awareness can be learned and growth opportunities found when you step back to ask yourself: “Why did I behave that way? What was driving me?” Then, if you’re brutally honest with yourself, you’ll discover areas that need to be surrendered to God and hopefully improved in your life.

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I had this type of moment recently, while in the fabric store with my family. Sienna has been very excited about writing, producing, and performing a play with her friends. She wants to perform it in our newly renovated backyard, where the fit pit resembles a stage in her imagination. I’d been encouraging this idea, until she announced that she wanted to sew dresses for the four main characters. This sounded very labor intensive to me!

Some backstory: my mom is a talented sewer and she got Sienna a sewing machine and all the accessories one year for Christmas. Sienna loves sewing clothes for her dolls and being creative with making pillows and other small projects. She doesn’t follow a pattern, but she is happy with her creations.

Okay, back to Joann’s. We’re in the fabric store and finding little accessories for the play – headbands and fake flowers. I explained to Sienna that we didn’t have time to pick out all the patterns or have fabric cut that day, but we’d come back another time. Then, I tried to dissuade her a bit. “Love, I’m not sure we can make four dresses. I’m not a good sewer and won’t be able to help you very much.”

“I don’t need your help, Gaga taught me to sew,” she replied.

“Yes, but it’s going to take a lot of time and I don’t know that we have the skills between us to take on this project,” I continued.

This type of reasoning went back and forth between us until we got in line with our purchases. I knelt down to talk to Sienna and she stoically said, “It sure would be nice if I had a mom who supported me.”

Ouch.

I got angry and tensely replied, “I support you all the time.” Then I turned away.

That afternoon and into the next day, her words haunted me. Sure, there’s an element of manipulation that she was employing, but I started to ask myself: “Why did I behave that way? What was driving me?”   I called my mom and she said something very helpful: “Why don’t you buy the pattern and material for one dress and let her try to sew it? She’ll get to experience how challenging it is and then you can decide whether to make more?”

“I never would have thought of that, Mom. Of course, that makes perfect sense. In my mind, we’re either going to make four perfect dresses or we’re not going to try at all.” Hello there, fixed mindset!

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As the kids have begun this wonderful new school, that’s more rigorous and challenging than they’re used to, I’m finding my old fixed mindset popping up. I believe in having a growth mindset and allowing people the grace to learn and grow. But, when the rubber meets the road, I fall back into old patterns of perfectionism or avoidance.

During this very same time, I’ve begun casually studying the Enneagram. If you’re not familiar, the Enneagram is a model of nine personality types. The first test I took told me that I was Type 2, The Giver, but I had a distinct feeling that my true type is Type 1, the Perfectionist (or, most positively, the Reformer or the Improver). This experience at the fabric store caused me to dig into the information, including a couple podcasts on Enneagram Type 1s. Oh, man. All the comments hit so close to home! I could relate to so much of what other Type 1s said about their life experiences. We tend to have a sense of “how things should be” that is over emphasized. Our “attention-to-detail” is on steroids!

Returning to my comments about sewing the dress, I recognize that my need for the dresses to be made “right” is part of where Sienna and I disconnect. My artistic daughter doesn’t need the dress to be made “how it should be”. She’d happily throw a sash around the dress or cut a hemline in an asymmetrical design and call it done! I need things to be done “right”. It wasn’t Sienna’s frustration or disappointment that I was trying to spare, it was my own. With a fixed mindset, I would have hovered over her project, trying to “fix” and “help” while only succeeding at hurting my daughter and sending the message that she wasn’t capable.

I can write about a growth mindset and intellectually understand it, but man, it’s challenging to really embrace it in my daily life. I’m praying that God will help me use this Enneagram realization to recognize my tendencies and find new ways to grow. My children are such amazing teachers! I told Sienna that I appreciated her comment that she’d like a mom that supported her: “God knew I needed a daughter like you to help me grow.”