space, care & coming

I am not a big goal setter. Growth is very important to me and I vigilantly watch for it, but not so much with the goals. My friend Leeana has done a workshop called “A Year In Review”. Totally my speed. I recently looked longingly at my art from last year’s workshop and missed my friend. Now she lives in Baharain. No workshop this year. And then she put a post on her blog that went step by step through the workshop. Score.

So on a day I took my kids to the park, I printed out the post and made sure to have my 2011 calendar with me. In between pushing kids on swings and working out sibling skirmishes, I opened my calendar and explored my soul for last year’s growth.

I discovered 2011 was a year of creating space. Precious space for others, for connecting with friends both near and far. Connecting with others always helps me feel more connected with myself and more stable and loved as I move through the craziness of life.

There was also a lot of space made for taking care. Taking care of myself and my family. That may sound obvious and elemental, but it took me quite some time to learn to take care of myself. I had a little girl in me that had been covered up instead of getting the care she needed. And we all know that taking care of ourselves is a necessary step in taking care of others. Even if we try and skip it sometimes.

So there were copious visits to therapists, dentists and doctors. Time was spent taking care of those things we often like to ignore. Bodies and souls. Our culture tells us just to keep going and pay no attention to the things that seem to be breaking down. Such things will work themselves out. But this year we ignored culture instead. And it feels very good to have taken care of those things.

I also realized for our family it was a year of coming: becoming, overcoming, and coming of age. As a wife and mom, I realized that I carry the lives of my husband and children around with me as a part of my own, so their struggles and growth and changes are a part of my own story as well.

Leeana quotes the passage from Ecclesiaties (made famous by John Lennon) that there is a time for all things under Heaven. As I read the list of a time for this and a time for that, my breath caught on a time to break down and a time to build up.

I entered 2011 quite broken down, and so for me it was a year about building up and seeing how beautiful that process can be. Finding a self that had been waiting quietly, timidly, and ever so patiently for me to discover her. Becoming.

Then there is my middle son. This year was about breaking down – or breaking through – fears. Facing big scary things like swimming in the deep end and having surgery and staying overnight in the hospital. Those are things that break down an eight year old. And yet through facing those things he was built up as well. Overcoming.

And my oldest – this year was about the child he was breaking down to make room for the man he is becoming. Goodbye elementary school. Welcome middle school and blackbelt and emerging man. Coming of age.

Then the youngest. His baby-ness is gone, broken down. The preschooler is building up, the language is building up, and the legos are building up. Coming of age too, just a different one.

And lastly my biggest man had a big birthday this year, and it wasn’t an easy one for him. He seems to be coming of age, too.

And all of it was cathartic, to see it all on paper and have a chance to acknowledge what this year held for our funny little family of five. Maybe no goals were achieved, but much growth took place. It felt kind of like taking a lot of loose strings and tying them together in a way that actually made some sense to look at.

What do you find when you look at your year in review? What do you want to find at the end of this year?


This week I read a post on Donald Miller’s blog. He talked about character versus reputation and the two concepts rattled inside of me the rest of the week, leaving me unsure why I couldn’t shake them. A few days later I bought some Round Up for killing the weeds in my front yard and somehow that helped clear things up for me.

A little over three and a half years ago, days before our third son was born, our pipes had to be replaced. In classic money pit style, none of it could be done the easy way, so our yard got torn up in the process and has yet to recover.

Now our front yard is FULL of weeds (seriously, there is nothing left but weeds) for a few reasons. Number one: replacing the pipes meant ruining our sprinkler system which then put the project into the completely overwhelming category. Number two: neither my husband nor I enjoy gardening. At all. Number three: the economy hit us too. Number four: we have been living out our value that the people in our home are more important than landscaping.

As I sprayed the weeds I thought about how the landscaping outside our home is representative of our reputation, what others think of us. But what happens inside our home with our family is our character, who we truly are. In Donald Miller’s post he encourages his readers to focus more on character in 2012 and less on reputation. If you drive by our home and see our yard, you will clearly see how my husband and I have let go of our reputation.

Now, I wouldn’t say either of us likes coming home to the ugliest yard in the neighborhood, but we know we will get to it as soon as we have the resources. Unfortunately, our neighbors seem to care more about our reputation than we do. In addition to some pointed tips people have felt free to give us, we have also received two anonymous notes from disgruntled neighbors. Our neighbors are uncomfortable with how our yard makes them look.

And as I sprayed some more weeds it occurred to me that not only were these two concepts playing out in my home, they were also playing out inside of me, and that’s probably why my brain has not been able to stop thinking about that darn post.

Last year I made some difficult decisions to pause contact with a few family members in order to take care of the inside of me. My home – the inside of me – was in shambles and I needed to draw the shades and block out the world in order to tend to my insides. I knew it would not be a popular decision and it would make me look bad to any number of people who might find out about or be affected by this choice. My “yard” – my reputation – was likely to take a hit.

But I did get better. In ways and to degrees that I did not think were possible this side of Heaven. I am still normal and human but I am also new and healed where before I was broken and wounded. And now I am ready to re-establish contact. But this week it occurred to me that although I am ready and willing, re-connecting might not be possible.

In addition to being hurt by my need for space, these family members might prefer the relationship they had with the old me. They might not be interested in what I have to offer them now.

So as I sprayed more weeds I saw my choices to tend to the inside and let the outside go for a while – both in my home and in my self – come at a cost. My husband and I are the black sheep of the neighborhood now. The people around us don’t like our priorities. They might like them in theory when they are making small talk at a block party, but in practice when they are making their neighborhood look bad, they are not fans. And my choices to focus on the inside of me may have cost me to loose some family relationships permanently, which was never my intention.

Donald Miller failed to mention that sometimes choosing character over reputation isn’t as easy or clear-cut as it sounds. He didn’t talk about the cost of such choices. However even now, seeing the cost of my choices, I am not sorry I made them. I would make them all over again. My kids were worth my front yard, and I was worth the cost too. Even if the price ends up being higher than I originally thought.