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Last Christmas I got really into decorating our house.  Lights and those shiny balls (so cheap, but pretty hanging from the ceiling or mounted in bowls), holly and burlap are among my Christmas decorating staples.  I really did let myself get stressed by the season.  With decorating, baking goodies, buying gifts, planning a trip (Gregg’s present last year was a quick trip to New York City), I missed the reason for the season.  (The perfect overused phrase for what happened–and it rhymes.)  I didn’t realize it until Christmas was over, so this year I’m taking a slightly different approach.

This season, I decorated, but I did it pretty quickly so as not to get consumed by it.  We aren’t getting gifts for as many family members this year as we did last year (this cuts down on stress).  The gifts I have purchased are ones that I’m excited about giving, and I haven’t spent too much money on everyone.  But, I’m also preparing.

I’m preparing for Christmas itself even though I’m really not sure how to do this.  Reading baby Jesus scripture, gazing at an Advent wreath…I’m not sure, those don’t feel quite right to me.  But, I’ve found a way to tie in preparing for a baby with preparing for Christmas.  This just occurred to me this morning.  The common denominator between the two (Christmas and pregnancy) is grace.  Grace.

Even though I’m not sure how to prepare for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot of preparing for a baby coming our way.  When I ask moms for advice, (and I have been asking.  I’m usually not a fan of advice, but I’ve had little shame in asking about maternity clothes, baby gear, labor, reusable diapers, pumping, a side ways swinging swing versus a normal swinging swing, and motherhood in general.  The questions are endless.  I can’t get enough of this advice to be honest.  And, I know I’m not going to get all of the answers until, um, I guess never.)

One piece of advice that I’ve been holding onto is to give yourself grace. (Two examples are E’s posts  and Ashley’s post, another example being my good friend Anne Lamott.)  This is not my best attribute.  But these women are saying over and over, give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack, trust its all going to be okay.  Grace.  Grace.  Grace.  They are talking about those immediate post-baby months and forever after that, too.   So, I figure, I should go ahead and practice now.  Christmastime seems like a good time to start.

Now, how do I do that?  Again, not really sure.  Its a total change in thinking.  A different way of thinking about myself and looking at myself.  Lowering the standard for myself of what I should  do.  Should=my Arch enemy.  As I’m preparing for labor and preparing to be a parent, learning things like how to keep a baby from crying not-stop, etc., I’m also preparing to practice grace.  Anne Lamott talks about looking at yourself from the outside with absolute tenderness.  She describes how helpful this is.  This is how God looks at me/us, right?  So why shouldn’t I/we do the same for myself/ourselves?

Last week before my friend Julie left for Mozambique, she asked me if I had been able to trust that God has a good plan for me.  I had a hard time responding.  Sometimes I can trust. I depend on my circumstances and my feelings to be reassured that I am being taken care of.  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  How??  How can you be content whatever the circumstances?  I know that people have been giving thanks and counting their thousands of gifts lately.  I’m sure that they are onto something.

I’m thankful for my dogs.

I’m thankful to live by the water.

I’m thankful for time to write.

I’m thankful for the desire to write.

I’m thankful that Gregg has the chance to farm.

I’m thankful for treasures to be found on the beach.

I’m thankful for my first friend date that I had yesterday.

I’m thankful for feeling close to my friends even though they are far away.

I’m thankful for the sunshine and the blue sky.

I’m thankful that my family is safe and healthy.

I’m thankful for this sunroom and for this space heater.

Confession: my thought after the tenth gift was: is that how you do it?  Did I do it right?  Silly.

I’m thankful for time, which I hardly ever have, but I have now.

The more I give thanks, the more thankful I am.  But some things just suck.  One time my small group in San Francisco gave thanks for what was going poorly in their lives.  After each person shared, we questioned if giving thanks was the correct response.  I don’t think we came to an answer.  Sometimes, I’m sure that give thanks for poor circumstances is the appropriate response, but what is making a change or asking for a change is even better?

I’m thankful for coffee.  Really.

I’m thankful when Gregg and I just be together.

When Gregg and I were living in San Francisco, we were part of a group called reImagine.  Its difficult, if not impossible, to classify reImagine.  Church?  Para-church?  Non-profit?  They are a group of people, led by Mark Scandrette, seeking to learn and live and love like Jesus.  They are not afraid to ask questions and seek God in non-conventional ways.

They have committed to live into 7 vows, which they developed together based on Scripture.  Simplicity.  Creativity.  Service.  Obedience.  Prayer.  Community.  Love.   Each year, they conduct workshops that focus on each vow.

Three years ago, Gregg and I participated in a workshop called Experiments in Truth.  The workshop took place during the Lenten season.  The idea was to make a change in your outer life that would promote inner growth.  Rather then asking the question: what should I give up for Lent?  They led us in asking a series of other questions.  When asking the questions, they encouraged us not to think too hard about them, but to write down the first things that came to mind.

The questions went something like this:

What areas of your life are in need of growth?

What distracts you/slows your progress from experiencing growth?

What can you commit to abstain from/limit in order to promote growth? [This was supposed to be measurable and specific.]

What new action will you engage in to “replace” what you are abstaining from?

How will you track and record our progress?

Three years ago, I tracked my progress using one word journal entries.

I’ve gone through the questions myself this year and come up with some answers.  I need peace and friendship.  I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

 

espresso

Mmmm…espresso.  The perfect little pick me up.  I read once that drinking coffee with another person increases your fondness towards that person.  What if you are by yourself?  I’m not sure, but drinking espresso by myself makes me feel fonder towards life in general.  I’m rolling my eyes at myself.

This morning I woke up feeling like I didn’t have enough time.  The feeling was focused on nothing in particular, but, in general, there’s not enough time in the day to [fill in the blank].  I tend to get this kind of feeling when I feel bogged down with things to do, and when I feel anxious in general.  I really have felt less anxious since stepping back in time two weeks ago when we moved to the country.  But, today, for some reason, that old feeling was creeping up on me.  I often try to get rid of it by proving it wrong.  “I do so have enough time.  Look how productive I will be today!”  I don’t recommend trying to beat the feeling that way.  I woke up at 7:00 a.m. to see Gregg off to his first day of work (woo hoo!).  I fiddled around the house for awhile getting ready to leave the house for my errand running.  I was tired by 8:25, unable to escape my, “there’s not enough time” feeling.  I got back in bed.  I think this actually is the solution to rid myself of this enemy feeling.  Rest.  Stop.

I consider this a step toward Team Grace.  A step away from Team Shame.

 

I’ve been slowly reading Madeliene L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet.  The book is made up of lovely ramblings of her life in the country with her family and as a writer.  She weaves words of wisdom throughout its pages.  I wanted to steal the title of the book for the blog, but “A Circle of Quiet” was already taken.  That’s probably a good thing, because I don’t want to go to prison for copyright infringement (I think that’s what the charge would be).  Then, Circle of Quiet was taken, too.  So I thought, The Circle of Quiet or My Circle of Quiet.  Both of those sounded like they should end with an exclamation point and an arrow pointed towards me.  Not quite the kind of title I was going for.  So, I landed on This Circle of Quiet.  I like what it conveys.  And, even though I don’t really think it describes me very well, its what I’m going for this year.  And, moving to the country, we are quite literally moving into a quieter space.

This year, I would like to have quiet on the inside as well as the outside.  One way to take a step towards this is to get off Team Shame.  Huh? you ask.  Team Shame is the arch-rival of Team Grace.  Here’s some examples of the running thoughts of Team Shame: “I should be doing ___,” (lots of thoughts begin with I should), “I feel really bad for (this thing that I did or didn’t do),” and “Why am I not more like (this random person that is prettier, skinnier, smarter, funnier, etc.) than me?”  Basically, Team Shame focuses on what you don’t have, don’t do, should be, shouldn’t do, and lives there forever.  I’m being a bit lighthearted about this, but I know that it is how many people live and think and work and play.  Me included.  So, this is the year, that I move from Team Shame to Team Grace.  The thought processes of Team Grace are more like: “I didn’t do that, but that’s okay,”  “Here friends, take a second helping, there will always be enough,” and  “I’m so happy for that pretty, skinny, smart, funny person, and, hey, I’ve got some good things going for me, too.”  The thoughts may begin similarly to those of Team Shame, but they end very differently.  Their thoughts end with some form of “Its okay.”  I think surgery, a brain transplant specifically, may be required to move me from Team Shame to Team Grace, but I’m ready.  Thankfully, Gregg and several dear friends of mine are key members of Team Grace.  They’re trying their best to recruit me.

I’m not sure what this surgery/recruitment process will look like.  I think it involves praying, catching myself at the beginning of  Team Shame thought runs, and I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I’ve got for now.