Sunday, February 7, 2016

winter contemplations

A January sunset, beautiful and bitterly cold.

January was a dreary month. Can I confess that I miss mild and warmer weather? I am anxious for summer again!

Coming into the new year, I am aware I need to balance work and play better than I have been. I work at my day-care/preschool job and, then, I come home to do more work....meals, cleaning, and maintenance of the home. I do not allow myself to rest often and that, I believe, has contributed to my decline of health. I think this will be a year of learning to balance these life routines. 

My journey towards health and emotional wholeness has been rocky and haphazard. I am still trying to listening to my body, to learn what it needs and when. I am seeing a gentle herbalist at my favorite local Durango herb shop. She is helping me focus on key plants and nutrients to feed my body. It will take time to reap long term benefits on this path, but I sense that I am more stabilized since beginning my routine of herb tinctures and homeopathy.  I am giving my adrenals lots of Vitamin C, B complex, and magnesium...building blocks for energy, immunity, and stress management. I love the way my medicine bottles look together, so I had to snap a photo to remember...



 





















One piece at a time, our cozy two bedroom apartment is becoming a place of personality and rest. These are just a couple of the many new items that have found a place in our home. I admit that I have been feeling rather materialistic lately. I am pondering why I feel guilty about spending money on house decor and kitchen items. It's not as if I am blowing money without any forethought. I have spent long hours carefully selecting which items I plan to buy, each of their purpose in our space, and finding the best deal for the style I am looking for. Yet, even with all my wise planning, I still feel tinges of guilt. You see, I grew up in a very privileged family. We always had money. We never wanted for anything. We were a thriving and well-to-do middle class family. As much as I loved being comfortable, I began to slowly, over time, resent our comfy lifestyle because I sensed the relational factor in my family was becoming rather dull and shallow (for many reasons that I knew nothing about at the time!) and that much of our emphasis was placed on money and stuff. Ever since then, I have pushed away from wanting a typical modern American lifestyle of comfort because I sensed that it distracts from the things in life that are most valuable. It certainly can and does, but obviously that doesn't make a comfortable lifestyle in and of itself a sin. Yet, in my heart, it is hard to separate the two. I still equate materialism (even a healthy and wise approach to spending) to a shallow, dull, and distracted life. That's why I feel guilt mingling with my excitement as I purchase items for our place. I haven't been able to shake myself free from it. I truly believe it is important to create beautiful spaces at home. It's important to come home to an inviting space at the end of the day instead of just bare white walls and empty rooms. Perhaps I just haven't reconciled certain things from my past life with my present life. As I find time and again, my past continues to echo loudly into my present in the most unexpected places. It's as if I keep referencing the past as a guide on how to live my new life as an adult, married, living away from my family and all that was once familiar. However, as I am learning, the past is not the best reference for such matters, especially when drastic changes have taken place in such a short amount of time. That was then, this is now. Two different lives, two different seasons. My only guide can be Jesus. In Him, there is no shame, no guilt, no regret. I want to bold with Him, to have courage to face and accept my present life with gratitude.



































 As always, the most important part of my life is my husband and our marriage. In just a few days we will celebrate three full married years together. I cannot grasp that we have lived in three different states in just three years! We were both thinking on this wild journey recently and kind of laughing at ourselves. From day one, we threw ourselves intensely into our marriage and our life goals together. After three years of burning hot, we are aware of how much we have worn ourselves down by making it such an upward climb. Sometimes, I observe and try to understand married couples who are super laid-back and know how to play and have fun and take everything in stride. How do they do that, I wonder? My husband and I, although vastly different in our hobbies and interests, are very much alike in temperament. Introverted, intense, idealistic, and we pour our heart and soul into whatever pursuit we feel strongly about. We do both take different approaches (my husband being the more pragmatic, money-savvy one! haha), but everything we do has to be done with a full, invested heart or not at all. Because of this, we suffer from strong emotional highs and lows. Let me just say, married life with someone of the same temperament is pretty intense, particularly when experiencing dramatic life changes and transitions. Somewhere along the way, we became very drained and forgot how to simply have fun. I think adulthood does this to almost everyone, unfortunately. And, sadly, I recognize that this intensity factor of my personality/temperament is part of the reason why I have never had many close friends (haha, my idea of "fun" has always been about being fiercely introspective and contemplative about ALL the deep things of life - one of the many reasons Nolan and I connected from the first time we met). I am starting to create a self-dialogue in my mind to ease myself away from always turning on the burner about every little thing. It's hard, but I think I need to give myself some slack and learn how to "just have fun" for once in my life - in small, doable, and enjoyable ways. I think as we enter into our fourth married year, I want to try to just smile and play more. I want to give my husband those opportunities to enjoy life and laugh again. Sometimes, it's the very, very simple things that nurture a marriage relationship. Marriage is a field in which you are constantly learning and having to adapt and take up new skills....skills that can be as simple as laughing and playing. And those are some memories I want to make with this love of mine.

Christmas with my man, 2015.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

of holidays, promises, and nesting

Waking up to this glorious scene never gets old!

2015 is coming to its close. It came and went very quickly. It was full and blessed, but not without its own set of challenges. My most favorite highlights of the year were visiting my family and friends in Arizona during the spring, spending a weekend in Jemez Springs for my and my husband's 2nd anniversary, the moment we knew when/where we would be moving and when/where my husband would have a new job, my family's visit to see me in Durango over the summer, and the moment I was hired on at a preschool this past August. That's quite a bit of action for one year! If I have any wishes for 2016, it's that it would be a year of slowing down, mindfulness, and that it would be relatively uneventful. However, I won't hold my breath for that since the past 5 years of my life have been non-stop and I can't imagine when it will let up. 


I am so thankful to live in Durango. I don't say that enough. It snowed all day yesterday and everything turned so white I could scarcely turn my eyes away. I probably sound silly, but it will take some time before this Arizonan is bored by this winter phenomenon. I can't say that I love this season as colder temperatures aren't exactly my thing, but experiencing a real winter for once holds magical wonder for me!

Thanksgiving this year was spent with my wonderful in-laws. I always feel so at home with them. The gift I have been given with them is dear to my heart and I never want to take it for granted.
 

Oh yeah - I had my long locks snipped off right before Thanksgiving. It was fun shocking everyone at my work and my in-laws! My reason for cutting my hair: stress is a killer on the quality and quantity of your hair. It's a lesson in self-care.












I found some glorious sunsets over Thanksgiving break. All the images below are my amateur attempts at capturing such moments. 

 



Earlier this month, downtown Durango held their annual Noel Night with sales and discounts at all the local shops, as well as live musicians. Nolan and I strolled through the night air, dodging the masses, and I got to sip on hot cocoa and splurge a little on items for my husband's stocking. It's so festive and friendly here! There is truly no better place to spend the holidays! 

 























As the year winds down and I reflect on all that has passed (both hard and good), I still come to the same conclusion. Rest, simplicity, family, and friends. That's all I want in my life and nothing else is worth my energy or time. This has ignited strong desires to settle down, to start nesting (no, I don't mean babies - at least, not yet! haha), and to remain present-minded. By nesting, I mean making a home in where I am and, also, learning to take my hands off my life, spiritually and emotionally speaking. 

 In all my frantic decisions to help my body physically recover from chronic pain and anxiety, I realize that I have been placing new burdens on myself. So, I let go. I stopped seeing my chiropractor and physical therapist. I still consider them an option, but I have sensed that I need a break from them for awhile. Recently, I began to attend the worship services at Durango House of Prayer. It's a small gathering of Christians who spend a night each week leading in worship, intercession, and reading of the Word. I have enjoyed it and felt warmly welcomed thus far. I don't know why else I am going except for the fact that I very much miss corporate worship. I still feel confused and unready to commit to a church at this time, but a weekly worship and prayer gathering resonates with what I need in this season. How long have I been running on empty? I don't know. A very long time, I feel. It's only the Lord's grace that has sustained me in all my wanderings. I don't know quite what I want or expect from Him except that I desire greatly for His peace to manifest in my being. And that's a doable request, right? I want an end to this chronic pain in my body and the rushing of anxiety and tangled web of warp-speed thoughts in my mind. I don't really want to expect a physical healing from Him and, yet, that is, essentially, what I am asking of Him. I want to believe that this is not what He wills or desires for my life, but I also realize how important and purposeful these trials and struggles are in revealing my heart to Him and Himself to me. I am confused, to say the least. Here I am, I say to Him. I am listening for Him, seeking His direction. If He means for me to live with these struggles, I want to really live in them, not wrestling or resisting. Eternal life is that we might know Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ in whom He has sent. I take that as statement of reality and also a promise...a promise that this life is a journey of Him unveiling and revealing Himself to us. The knowledge of God filling us up. Well, I need some of that again. As a Christian, you never imagine that you would ever find yourself at the bottom of the lowest lows. Yet, here I am again and again. I am quite sure this startled Job on more than one occasion. In the dark place, I am revealed and with each revealing I only know that humility is of greater value to God than anything else. I do not speak that flippantly to my own soul. In each revealing, that truth becomes more serious, more reverent, and more sacred. I know He will bring me to the end in strength. And that's another promise. 

I'm on my two week Christmas break from work. It's something I haven't want to admit that I've really, really needed. I am so thankful for my job at the preschool and for all my coworkers. It's a safe and understanding work environment. However, the long days wrangling toddlers takes its toll. Even though I only work part time, I haven't taken a day off since I began the job. I have even picked up shifts for others who needed someone to cover for them. I have over-worked myself (for the condition that my body is currently in) to make up for all the times I never worked a day in my life. I am really hard on myself, can't you tell? There is a lesson in here for me, but I haven't learned it yet. But I can say that I am treating myself very well this break. Lots of yoga, lots of mindfulness breath meditations, coloring (just discovered the world of adult coloring books with gorgeous illustrations!), reading Outlander book #5 (still giving Diana Gabaldon a chance after the mess she wrote she in book 3 and 4!), photography, singing, listening to the Outlander soundtrack and, you know, watching the Outlander season 2 teaser a bunch of times. ;)

Christmas eve with my in-laws and opening up stockings with my husband awaits me. Although this is our third married Christmas together, it is actually our first *real* Christmas. It is the first time we have had extra spending money and time to begin our own traditions. And it's the first time we have felt settled in a place we want to call home for a long while. That, in and of itself, makes this time very special to us. Even with all the challenges and stresses that we still face, we end this year with much gratitude, sober reflection, and some hope for the new year ahead.











 Also, I have managed to tease our kitty quite a bit. I think I might regret it at some point. Look at that face! No cats were frozen during the taking of this image. ;)

 And, lastly, it's a terrible quality cell phone photo, but here I am taking in all the snow fall from yesterday. It was so refreshing!





Tuesday, November 10, 2015

two moments

Two moments.

They are the only ones that continually affirm and confirm.

My husband's presence, sharpening into focus. His voice, his thoughts, his hands. The one whom I have memorized over and over again. Yet, his uniqueness strikes me in the moments I enter into my existence with him, not distracted by the cares of life or the routine of the day. It's a startling new, yet consistent reminder each and every time. This man, I am called to love. This man, I call husband. This man who six years ago was just a name I had heard of is now mysteriously and intricately bound in me and I in him. We're both tangled up in the disorder of one another's humanity.

In such moments, I know I'll continue to walk any and every path with him. It's a surety, a confidence, a deep-settled purpose that I have in marriage with him. How is it possible to be so terrified of this path and, yet, so brimming with courage to continue this lifelong trek? What changes will we continue to experience? What events will continue to humble us? The questions fall when I consider this...




I wonder, like any human, what is my great purpose here on earth?

Him.
Nolan Thomas.
Walking him to Glory.

So every day I am surrounded by the beautiful crying forth of the ideas of God, one of which is you.
// Mary Oliver /
/
























The second moment is one I have re-lived for most of my adult years. I pick up my guitar to strum a tune, to play those old cadences that made up most of my college years. That ordinary moment becomes magical. The vibrations in my fingers as I play seem to connect to my own bodily frequencies. I begin apathetic and, then, within minutes a hidden cry seems to break free from me. All my longings bound up within those melodies that I have played so many times. How did I overlook this before? All I sense within this time frame is me, my guitar, and my Lord Jesus. Everything and everyone else fades from me. I experience a sensation of becoming like a child again, renewed wonder and joy. They aren't necessarily worship tunes that I always play. Some days, it's a Jazz lick from my classics songbook. Other days, I'm finger-picking some traditional Irish tunes. Sometimes, I'm playing those ridiculously romantic love songs I wrote. Each one, whether it's my own creation or the songs that I have carried nearby through the years, is my heart. It's me. How else can I describe it? They unveil my identity, personality, temperament, thoughts, emotions, and eccentric nuances of who I am. When I play these varied songs, I am playing me and I feel a freedom and a release in every note. I can literally feel my Father smiling with me, delighting in me. 

 And for that one moment, while the music plays, you know who you are and everything you wish to be.
// Kellie Elmore //




I don't necessarily need to publicize my songs or make sure my creative skills are being put to use within a church, ministry, or wherever. In the moment I am playing my guitar, my purpose is fulfilled. I erroneously once thought I wanted my skills to be used in a great ministry-type way. I thought I would never be content until that big moment happened. I was waiting all these years for that revelation of my purpose in this. I unexpectedly discovered that purpose has been fulfilled again and again each time I play. I am living it in full color with each string I pluck and every chord and note my fingers form.

I am a big-vision dreamer type of girl, but over the recent year or two I have discovered that part of myself wilting. I couldn't dream anymore. I felt as if I lost that inherent ability forever. I kicked and screamed and refused to accept such a reality! Then, I became really quiet and grieved.

Abba woke me up again.
And He woke me up in these two moments.
He spoke warmly, You are living the dream, My dear one. Come celebrate these moments with Me.

I celebrate with Him in my husband.
I celebrate with Him in the music.

It is tempting to look towards the horizon and wonder what's out there. For 26 years I have waited for that with excitement, awe, fear, and anxiety. I wondered if there was a locked door out there with all the purposes for my existence tucked away behind it. Now I know that my fulfillment is not waiting to be unleashed in one grand moment, but has existed this entire time in each day I am given with my husband and in each song I have collected and written to play. It's a happiness not like fireworks in the sky, but like the babbling of a cheerful brook in a faraway forest.












Friday, October 30, 2015

autumn in the mountains

As I type this post, the last of the autumn leaves are falling and frost greets us in the mornings. What magic has transpired here in the mountains with the changing of seasons! It's a treat to experience very precise seasonal transitions.

September was a very long and grueling month. On top of adjusting to my new job, my health seemed to fail me nearly every waking hour. My anxiety and moods were a roller coaster and I felt pretty darn desperate for answers! It was during my time at a gloriously relaxing local massage center that I experienced an answer to my health struggles, which then led me to a chiropractor here in town by the beginning of October. Five chiropractic adjustments later, I have experienced that tingling of fresh hope. Some of the inflammation in my body has become a bit more manageable and my chiropractor says I'm a little easier to adjust each time I visit him. Apparently, I've been a locked up in my upper back/chest, with a misaligned pelvic/hip, and a great deal of inflammation across my entire back, chest, and neck. This has affected my adrenal glands, kidneys, my ability to function through small daily tasks, and probably more that I'm not aware of. I'm trying to be mindful of my physical limits, as well as work on building strength in my core and arms. As I've come to accept, there is no one to blame for this but myself as I have pushed myself beyond my physical and emotional limits these past two years. I have done things I should have never done. But I could not have foreseen this as I had lost myself for awhile there...indeed, I nearly gave up on hoping. I was caught in a cycle of surviving and completing daily tasks as a means of coping through my losses and heartbreaks. Now, I'm trying to regain strength in my overworked physical body, but also in my heart and spirit. It is still a long road to travel with becoming healthy again, but now I have found something I could not see before: Hope. 

Life can be devastating. But it moves forward, almost mercilessly at times. Yet, we need it to keep moving forward, to continue its usual mundane course. We need to know there will be a tomorrow, the sun will rise, and the seasons will change, and all will continue on its usual cycle. After loss and repeated hard circumstances, the human mind becomes wired to expect the end of a thing. There are no new beginnings, there are no second chances. The mind only anticipates the end. And that is all I have expected out of everything good. A new job, a new living situation, a positive change....it doesn't matter, I just anticipate that it will be taken away, that nothing is permanent. In truth, there is no permanence here on earth, but we're not meant to live in dreaded anticipation of this, as I have been. As I have watched the seasons change here in Durango, I feel an odd mixture of sadness and comfort. The transformation of summer into fall has reminded me that there is a permanence and purpose to the rhythm and order of the changes. There is consolation in the fact that seasons come and go again and again. That order is a reminder that there is a time for everything under the sun. And through each of those times, no matter how long or how short, everything is and will be made beautiful by the hands of our Creator.


I've really needed stability in my life again. Stability of a place to call my own, a job that gives me a routine, relationships that aren't always marked by emotional highs and lows, and a chance just to live life where I am planted without any traumatic hindrances. I am not promised stability from anyone or anything on this earth. For years, I did assume the stability of my early life would continue on as it always had. The waves of life have thrown me against the Rock of Ages, but not without dragging me out to sea again and again, engulfing me in its cold and desperate torrent, thrashing me over and over with its force. And I, becoming more and more limp with each wave, not even bothering to push myself towards the One who stood in the center of it all. The physical pain in my body has been humbling in that I have crumpled beneath the force of my self-will and am, once again, in very small ways, wanting to trust my Father again. I am not quite sure how long my state of humility will last (haha!), but I am trying to trust Him in my own way. He, always whispering, "My child, in whom I am well-pleased. You make Me so proud." I know that's all I need to hear each day, over and over and over and over again. All my bitterness aside, I wonder...maybe in all those years of wanting to be great for Him, to be an exemplary Christian and prayer warrior that is well-studied in the Word, to live the "victorious" Christian life, I completely and utterly overlooked the small for the great. That would seem very much in my character. I was told that as a baby, I wanted to walk before I could barely crawl. My parents sensed an impatient and over-achieving nature in me from a very young age and it has only increased over the years. I do wonder now that all those things I listed above, those "great" things I thought a Christian should want to be, are, in fact, not even what our Father wants for us. I feel so stupid to ask Him this now, but maybe that's the best way to approach Him - in my own stupidity. Father, who do You want me to be? What do You have in mind for my life here?

These days, I am beginning to view life a lot more simply, to not take myself so seriously, and to focus only what I am capable of focusing on here in the present. I suppose I find a stability and security in this simplicity of focus. It feels good, to be honest. I'm beginning to not expect more out of myself, others, or God. I'm slowly (very slowly, ahem!) learning to rest even in my restlessness, if that makes sense! 

I'm not the same young woman I was nearly two years ago when I said goodbye to my home of 24 years in the Phoenix valley. Personality and unique personal quirks don't change much, but minds can be stretched, hearts can be broken, and bodies can become worn down as mine have been. That will change one's inner spirit, attitude, and mindset. Sometimes...well, many times, I have thought I have been changing for the worse. I will often endure many circumstantial and outward changes for a long time, but when it's my inward being that begins to experience monumental transformations, I am not quite so accepting of it. Watching and feeling myself becoming something other than what I was has been the most terrifying process. There are days still when I mourn the loss of who I knew myself to be before all this. It's not that my husband, family, or God have not been accepting of me...quite the contrary, they have loved me with open arms! It's myself that has not accepted. Long story short, I am learning a proper view and relationship towards myself. It sounds odd; I can't quite explain why I am this way. I can only ascribe it to that little over-achiever in me that wanted to always be something different and beyond who God made me. A little girl who just wanted to be so beyond great and talented and perfect. It's strange and humorous the patterns you begin to recognize in yourself. 

The end of this autumn season brought a most wonderful gift to me this past weekend - my sister and cousin (aka my second sister)! A wedding of a mutual friend united us for a short weekend and it was pretty grand (even through lost sleep and my aching body) to just have our usual "trio time" (as we call it, hehe!). In addition to this, my job as a preschool teacher aide has been going well and becoming more of a routine. I have been asked to consider becoming teacher qualified for the preschool and I sense some good (albeit challenging!) things are on the horizon in my work there. At home, my husband and I are still navigating through work stresses, the ups and downs of it all, and discovering ways to settle into our new life here in Colorado. We're at a place in our marriage where we more quickly voice our needs and are more honest in an up-front, but gentle and firm way. We've been through a lot in our almost 3 years of marriage. It feels like we took a high-speed intensive learning course on conflict, communication, and resolve - haha! In reality, we just sank deeper into Grace and that has meant everything in how we relate to one another. :) He and I are also experiencing the blessing of making our apartment a home we enjoy coming home to at the end of the day. I tend to dwell quite a bit on the hard days we've experienced the past few months with all the stresses and transitions, but when I am being honest with myself, there is nothing that brings me more satisfaction then my husband and I praying together at the end of the day. That is happiness.
   

A few weekends ago, we took a day trip to Silverton (my first visit there!), which was one of the most laid back and quiet little towns I have ever visited. We dined at an old saloon bar that welcomed us in with ragtime tunes being played by a gentleman on a very old piano. I don't know if Colorado is my "forever home," but it's pretty grand here. Never have I met so many compassionate and empathetic people in one area. From my massage therapist, chiropractor, herbalists, shop owners, to my coworkers at the preschool...I feel accepted here! That is something I am so grateful for. It's not even that I have made friends with these people, yet. These are just individuals that I run into or see on a daily or weekly basis. I feel comfortable with them because they are so non-judgmental. It is pure refreshment!

I close with some of my captures from this past month - taken with my new 50mm lens, which I am absolutely enjoying!