Posts Tagged ‘daily life’

blue purple hydrangeas

Today’s prompt: green (and blue and purple). I have fallen head over heels for hydrangeas this summer.

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sunset clouds tree view

The view from my front patio: moody skies, sunset afterglow, neighborhood lights.

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Here we are in the middle of ordinary time, that long stretch of the church year between Pentecost and Advent.

Although the high liturgical seasons – especially Christmas and Easter – tend to steal all the attention, the truth is that ordinary time takes up nearly half of the church calendar. The long sequence of Sundays after Pentecost includes the whole summer and most of the fall. During these Sundays, the weekly lectionary texts prod us to think about how to live.

I go to a tiny, semi-liturgical church that has adopted the lectionary and the church year as a way of ordering our communal life. We are part of a denomination that traditionally resisted such things, but we have come to love the quiet rhythms (weekly and annual) that help give shape and focus to our time together.

Many of us are refugees from big evangelical churches that emphasized emotion over thoughtfulness; others came from church communities that prized rationalism over mystery. The liturgy – the Lord’s Prayer, the communion table, the cycle of the church year – helps us make space for all these things.

Although summer is a set-apart time for many people (especially in a city like Boston, which takes its cues from the academic calendar), it always coincides with deep ordinary time. In the midst of school vacations, travel plans, warm weather and looser schedules, we turn back to the Epistles and the Gospels, asking every Sunday: what kind of people are we going to be?

I like ordinary time as a metaphor for our lives. I have a friend who used to slip up and call it “mundane time.” It can sometimes feel like that, but it’s also where most of us live, most of the time. All of our lives contain high moments of joy and low moments of grief and fear, but we mostly live in between. It’s the same at church: while many of us relish the excitement of various holidays, most of our sermons and services, and the issues we discuss, are linked to our everyday, walking-around lives.

Here, in the longest and quietest (in some ways) season, we are called to live faithfully, to consider our instructions (and the story we find ourselves in), and decide how we are going to live. The altar color of this season is green, for new life and growth. If we are faithful (and sometimes lucky), we can experience growth in ordinary time.

I will always love the anticipation of Advent, the starry-eyed wonder of Christmas, the drama of Holy Week and the bursting joy of Easter. But I am developing an appreciation for ordinary time. The beauty of the everyday is particularly present in these weeks, as spring slides into summer and then summer turns toward fall.

Here in ordinary time, it is our job to pay attention, to do our best to live thoughtfully and wisely, to walk through this world with wisdom and compassion. To make these things ordinary, even while they remain mysterious and full of grace.

May it ever be so.

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baby evie

This is Evie, who belongs to my dear friends Abigail and Nate. She was born in May, and I’ve gotten to spend some time hanging out with her (and Abi) this summer. Which definitely qualifies as a sweet delight.

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housemates radcliffe camera oxford

If I’ve heard it said once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: friendship is a process of give and take.

In the best friendships, each person has a lot to offer the other, and we do this via a healthy, balanced exchange of love and respect. Not in a pedantic, score-keeping way, but in a way that fills each person up, and doesn’t tip the scales too far in any one direction. We lean on each other when we need it; we provide laughter, a listening ear, a place for our friends to be themselves.

I am grateful to have a lot of these friendships (and this kind of marriage) in my life. (One example: the three girls I lived with during my year in Oxford, who are pictured above – we had a surprise reunion last fall.)

I’m a classic overachiever: organized, driven, capable. I am not Superwoman, but I know my strengths, and like most people, I prefer to operate out of them most of the time. I am so much more comfortable being the giver in a friendship: the one who says, “I’m fine” and means it, the one who can provide what another person needs: a listening ear, a home-cooked meal, a bit of encouragement on a tough day.

I’ve been dealing with a difficult situation lately, and here is one of the most frustrating things about it: I have had to ask for help, over and over again. I need advice and support and cheering up; I need lunch dates and distraction and a little extra attention. I am having to learn to be the one who takes, who receives, who admits her own neediness and lack. And – no surprise here – I don’t like it.

There’s nothing wrong with being capable, but there’s something a little more insidious at work here: I like seeing myself as a person who has it all together. The other side of that coin, it turns out, is a deep fear: the fear of being a person who takes and takes and has nothing to give. Of being a person who pushes her friends away because she’s just so needy. Of turning into a person who demands more than she can give in return.

I don’t have any easy answers for this, at the moment. The tough situation in my life isn’t going away, at least not yet, and I’m still struggling to figure out how to ask my friends to help me through it. I’d much rather work things out on my own and keep presenting a brave face to those I love, but that isn’t really an option (at least not a healthy one).

So I’m learning, day by day, to keep asking for help when I need it, and reminding myself that friendship is about loving each other when we’re human. And to fight down the fear that says I’m not enough – because I know, deep down, that my friends and family are kind and generous and willing for me to lean on them. Even if I have trouble with the leaning, sometimes.

Do you struggle with being the “taker” – the vulnerable one – in your relationships? (Please tell me I’m not alone here.)

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This week marks five years since we landed in Boston, after a month of so many good-byes (and so much packing) in our West Texas college town, and four days of driving a moving truck cross-country.

We arrived at nearly midnight on day four, parking our unwieldy truck in the driveway of new acquaintances whom I hadn’t yet met (though J had). Our college friends Nate and Abigail, who had moved a month before we did, came to take us to their house, where we crashed in their living room for the night. Abi ran down the sidewalk to greet me, and I nearly collapsed into her arms. We had made it. It was an end, and a beginning.

The next day, we moved into the apartment Abi had helped J find, when he flew up for a weekend to meet his new boss and scout out a place for us to live. Our landlady, Gina, showed us around the empty rooms: creamy walls, wood floors, plentiful windows. “I hope you’ll be happy here,” she said simply.

We never had a set timeline for our Boston adventure. We were hankering for something new after nearly eight years in Abilene (where we met and fell in love and earned our college degrees), and J’s job hunt had foundered in Texas, leading him to cast a wider net. We figured we’d be here for three years or so, till he earned full licensure as a marriage and family therapist (with the necessary hours, supervision and mounds of paperwork), and then we’d see. We moved here knowing exactly three people (all fellow Abilene transplants), and we had not the first clue about what it would be like.

Five years in, I can say with certainty: it’s been a messy, rich, full, glorious adventure. And it has been hard.

We have loved exploring Boston and New England: gorgeous, historic, charming, so utterly different from the Texas plains where I grew up. We have delighted in apple picking, trips to seaside towns, the ease of driving to other states and even to Canada. I have gloried in the bookstores, the green public spaces, the farmers’ markets, the wonders of Harvard.

harvard yard autumn light leaves

Our community here is much smaller than in Texas, but we have made some firm and dear friends. (We could not have survived, in particular, without Nate and Abi, or without Shanna, another college friend who lived in Boston for a while and then moved to Atlanta.)

I am deeply grateful for colleagues and writer pals and the small but tightly knit community at our church, who have been our lifelines over and over. Many of them are fellow transplants, who remember what it’s like to be strangers here, who have walked alongside us as we built a life from scratch in this exciting, frustrating place.

Because Boston – despite its appeal in a thousand ways – is not an easy place to live. It is full of snarled roads and complicated public transport, elaborate parking regulations and surprisingly insular communities. It is hard work to build a life here if you’re not a native, if dropping your r’s and shoveling snow don’t come naturally. It can be lonely and isolating, and for a good chunk of each year, it is cold and snowy. We miss our families, the soul-deep friendships we left in Abilene, the spicy Tex-Mex food that doesn’t seem to exist up here (outside our own kitchen). Our life here is rich and lovely, but it has never gotten to easy.

I get asked a series of related questions often: What brought you to Boston? Where did you live before? Do you think you’ll go back to Texas one day?

The answers to the first two are simple: a job and a new adventure; West Texas (and Oxford). The last one is more complicated. We’ve never been sure how long we planned to stay, and we’re still not sure. Three years after I wrote about being in the middle of our time in New England, we are still there. We knew when it was time to move up here – trusting our instincts and taking the leap – and I believe we’ll know when it’s time to go.

The gift, and possibly the lesson, of this time in Boston has been to pay attention: to accept the gifts of the present moment and not get too caught up in wishing for what was, or what may be one day. The constant challenges of living here are an ever-present reminder to be here now. We may not stay forever – and every winter I wonder why we moved here at all – but we are here now. This is our life. And it is challenging – and good.

Happy five years, Boston. We are grateful for all your gifts. And we’re not done with you yet.

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sunflowers yellow books

I can’t get enough sunflowers this summer. They’re so cheerful and friendly (like the florist who sells them to me).

I grabbed a stack of yellow books just for fun – some perennial favorites (Betsy, Maisie, Flavia) and a few newer gems.

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