Despite the challenges….

It’s been a while since I posted anything – not for lack of writing – but rather because processes have a way of “being covered in manure” sometimes before they makes sense. Seeds grow and germinate well in rich soil – the smell of manure at different times of the year from neighbours garden’s always reminds me of this (unless I get too focused on the manure and forget about the long term process at work). The reminder of Jesus’s words in John 12: 24 is seen around us all the time: Seeds need to die to become fruitful and more than just a single seed.
Things that seem to be sprouting at the moment include the possibility of life looking very different. Include the possibility of being excited about new beginnings. Include the possibility of new habits/ neural pathways and ways of being.

This morning I started reading a book on changing habits. One question that was asked is “what do you do first thing in the morning?”. It was hard realisation, again, to acknowledge that my habit is to get up and GO! From sleep state to MAX energy in whatever it is – often driven by a sense of underlying urgency or anxiety. So I STOPPED and asked myself was this necessary?

Were the reasons that I was GOING at this pace still even there? NO. Actually not. Intentional decisions have been made to ensure that this is not the case. My days are more measured.
Each day this week I have had to rewire my brain to accept that this week, this term and the rest of this year is not going to look like the past 12 months did in terms of work pace. It’s a habit of busyness at full tilt that needed to be broken. It’s okay for days to be full, but not perpetually full and rushed.

Honouring this slow-down process has been challenging in different ways. It’s required mindfulness. It’s required recognising where I have been messing up: in choices I make, in the way that it has impacted my relationships as well as in the impact that it has had on me: my body and my emotions.

It has been challenging when we come back from a time away to discover that there are unexpected glitches resulting in a BIG financial stretch due to complications in my husband’s transition from an old work season to a new one.
It’s been challenging for this “I always have a plan person” to not be able to take control of this process and want to look for extra work as we seek to save to buy a home; to shake off all financial stress and to trust that this is maybe a part of the process too.

It has been inspiring and affirming of a prayer prayed together with my husband of Lord grow our faith! It has been incredible to see my husband remain solid in this. It has been affirming of the marriage relationship to see us talking about other stuff – not the mess that has happened. In the midst of this big rollercoaster ride, my husband is still dreaming about homes and the goals that we have for life together in the long term.

This is the process of change and fresh starts. I am not sure why I thought it would be totally stress free?! The challenge for me really is to learn to live well, intentionally, despite the challenges, not without them.

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SAME same but DIFFERENT

Things that are the same same but different are a big part of why I have been forced to slow down and stop sometimes.

This past week I have had lots of time to sit and think and reflect on what is good, what is hard, what is making this soooo very hard.

I know that I am not (mood) depressed – but two of my friends said to me there is a lot of underlying anxiety/ stress. They are wise, and honest and gentle and worth listening to often!

I reflected on what they meant by this and realised that actually there was.

There have been so many changes in the last 18 months, as well as the last 10 years. Many of these amazing changes, worth celebrating, like master’s degrees and mom’s healthy heart, and adventures in Africa and becoming self-employed. Maybe the biggest has been shifting from a 30 something single to a very recently married and very recently 40-something.

We are still in the midst of the unknowns and the pace at which I have been living has made this harder, but actually yes, there is a lot of underlying anxiety at the moment.

The gift this week has been recognising that I have not struggled with accepting more responsibility and the role of being married and a wife, but I have struggled with letting go of what it meant to only be single.

I simply added wife and married onto the existing things.

See I am the same person with the same dreams, passions and convictions but I am having to learn that my life
has changed and that means that the expression of this by default actually needs to change. It means finding clarity and focus and intent differently. It has meant looking at what is working and isn’t working energy wise.

It’s also meant that I have had the opportunity to look at what hasn’t been dealt with personally, or professionally that is fuelling the anxiety.

What are the unknowns and what are the unspoken, unfinished things that need attention?

What do I need to make peace with as possibly never reaching a finish line and what can I process and perhaps find peace in the processing either alone or another?

How can I not be grateful for this gift?

It’s about rest. It’s about peace. It’s about slowing down and it’s about healing. A journey I get to go on with God, myself and with community.

I like that a lot.

Was he worth the wait?

So much excitement about a wedding & so many people sending love, wishes and hopes for us!  People love to celebrate love.  I know this because my blog got more hits and views and links on the WEDDINGS, DETAILS and WHAT I AM REALLY EXCITED ABOUT than it did for any SOCIAL JUSTICE writing.  I also know this because I am closer to 40 than I am to 30 and there have been so many different reactions to the news that I am getting married. 

Reactions ranging from “he must be really special” *he is* to “ah, see, he was worth waiting for” and “Wasn’t he worth the wait?” I wouldn’t swop my Bear for anyone else.

 If I am going to be annoyed and driven crazy and love and loved, I want it to be with & by him rather than anyone else

Please re-read that before you carry on reading the next line – seriously –make sure you know that I mean it and I want to love and commit to loving him forever – on the good days, the mad days, the sad days and the deeply content days.

However to ask me if “Wasn’t he worth all the waiting?” in some ways is a trap of a question.  The way I understand it is this:

–          I wouldn’t want anyone else

–          I wouldn’t want the waiting time ever again

I shared this with a friend who waited a long time before their child was conceived – she had had the same responses from well -meaning well-wishers – “wasn’t your baby worth the wait?”  She wouldn’t swop that little person for anyone else BUT the heart-ache and grief of being single or child-less is something that neither she nor I ever want again regardless of the outcome.

Walking, talking and listening to friends who are still single – whether younger, my peers or older than me – I am mindful of the amazing gift I have been given in the man who chooses to love me – and still mindful of the chaos of the world as a single person:  of the assumptions made about the amazing men & women I know who love God, love people, are passionate about life and love and yet haven’t met their other.  Being in a relationship is hard at times; iron sharpens iron –we know this.  Being single at times was hard too.

The wait meant some odd choices of dates in perpetual hope; the wait meant that the inner part of me seeking companionship was lonely, not in solitude, in heartache and was sometimes judged when it was expressed for surely I had a life fulfilled – and I did:  I get to do work I love in a country I am passionate about on a continent that pulses a beat of challenges and craziness and creativity. It was hard not having someone to share that with.  Angry, fist raised, crying at God hard some days.

There are no guarantees about the wait just like there are no guarantees that life is necessarily easier in relationship.  I do know this.  I am grateful for a hope fulfilled in the longing for an “other” – especially for the other that I now have to do life with.  I am also grateful that the wait is over and there were moments of growth and hope and amazing adventure in it yes, but that’s not the same as the value of who I have in my life now.

Weddings, details and what I am really excited about….

3 and a half weeks ago I got engaged to my Bear – my best friend, my supporter, the man who has my back, who fell in love with me and not the idea of the me – the idea of me being what I do for a living or project.  Rather I am blessed enough to be loved by someone, who I love back, who sees the fragile, gentle parts of me too and loves those parts tenderly. 

Our formal engagement came after setting a wedding date – we had too many faraway friends & family members to do this any other way if we wanted there to be a chance of them being with us.  So, for about 10 weeks I walked around with the knowledge there was a hoped for date….about 8 weeks ago, there was an official speaking to my parents and on the 15th June there was the official proposal.  A thought out, romantic, overwhelming spoil of a day – one of those days that you wish you could get lost in for longer than the permitted 24 hours.

I can’t wait to get married.  I can’t wait to be MRS BEAR.  It has been truly scary having to confront my wedding phobia.  There it is out loud:  Marriage doesn’t scare me as much as weddings themselves do. These past few weeks I have had to confront this phobia because what I think does count.  My amazing parents (who have been married for 40 years) and sister in law have taken on the task of “wedding planning team” in the province where we are getting married.

I had to make a commitment to not be an ostrich and to be willing to talk about things.  So this is how we did it.  We had a sanction on any wedding talk except for dedicated times.  We enforced this with family, with friends and with well-wishers.  This past weekend I flew to spend time with my family and sign off with them on the details:  you know fabrics, chapel, photographer, reception venue, DJ, décor….it was a really busy weekend of details.  Details which overwhelm and scare me!

Friends popped over to say congrats and hellos and asked me if I was excited about the wedding.  I got text messages asking if I was excited about my dress.  I have had people want to know if all the details are on track.  We have had to negotiate the tight rope of the wedding guest list- something I guess only preludes the table seating plan….and in the midst of it all, as much as choosing who to marry is a big deal what has struck me time and time again is that I am more excited about being married to my Bear than I am about the details.  Every single service provider was concerned about my reaction to rain or to something not being perfect.  Our wedding day is about us being a part of community of family and friends and honouring God and them for the people that we are today, being able to stand and say I do.

DO I think that our wedding is going to be lovely? YES.  Do I want him to think that I look beautiful?  Yes.  Do I want people to have fun?  Yes – More than all of this though I want there to be love and hope and kindness and joy present.  I want us to be surrounded by a community of people who choose to be there- not just on the day we get married, but in the years ahead.  I want us to be talking about marriage and what it means more than talking about colour schemes.  I want us to be laying firm foundations with wise input for the biggest adventure of our lives.

Really, I am serious when I say to you the thing I am most excited about is being Mrs Bear: More than lace; more than colour schemes; more than worrying about the weather.  I am excited about the Marriage part.  The wedding seems small in comparison. Image