traveling Europe in 2025 // gratification delayed

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I’m always telling my children to be patient.

“You don’t need that this very moment! STOP DEMANDING EVERYTHING THE SECOND YOU WANT IT!”

Funny though, I only learned the true beauty of delayed gratification about 5 years ago, at the age of 32. I lost approxiamtely sixty pounds over a course of some time through delaying what usually feels like something I deserve: comfort. I had never had to delay myself before, intentionally. I rarely had to hold back in situations when I could freely take/consume or get something I desired in that moment. Through a journey with my health, I learned that just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. I learned that I’m inherently selfish (aren’t we all?) and I want what I want, when I want it. It took re-training my eye to recognize it because I actually thought, as many of us do, that I wasn’t selfish. We give to others, open our home, are kind with our time. But I recognized that when it comets patience, I was selfish. I wanted the things I wanted, when I wanted them. I knew nothing of delayed gratification. I didn’t understand why it was important to have.

I then was forced (by order of a doctor who knew I wanted to get pregnant again), to lose weight. I was at an unhealthy point in my life, and I had gained unwanted pounds, during a bizarre life season. It took hard work and being very cautious with my choices. For the first time in my life, I was denying myself things I wanted (or thought I wanted) in order to reach some illusive goal. I didn’t know where I was going but I was mad about it most of the time. I was having to deny myself! I was having to say no to things I should be able to enjoy and have! It seems silly now, but I was very much in that place.

A year later, sixty pounds lighter, I got it. I had delayed gratification because I was reaching for something more important. And once I felt that ridiculously satisfying feeling, it’s been more difficult to stomach when my selfishness and impatience has reared its ugly head, in the past few years.

It has been a gift to clearly observe my lack of patience in many areas – my parenting, our educating the girls at home (this one is really hard at times, because the delayed gratification is quite a ways off, to some degree), my mental and emotional health, and most importantly, my walk with the Lord. After a spiritual dry spell, I will sit down with my Bible and expect the Lord to speak loudly into my ears and tell me all the things I need and must do. It’s ludicrous, impatient and selfish, and yet I’ll do it over and over again. Just like my children. When will I really grow up?

But I’m getting better.

And that’s where the “Europe 2025” jar serves as a handy daily reminder.

We often think about taking our girls (and ourselves) on a several week European vacation. We have many places we’ve studied and learned about and are chomping at the bit to see many historical locations. We talk about walking down cobblestone streets, enjoying gelato, and flying on jet planes. Of course, every family must decide when it is best and wisest to make this huge investment and for us, a trip of that grandeur seems to be a bit of a ways off. To the tune of almost a decade or so. And that’s fine. More than fine actually. Many people have never been to Europe and many will never go – I’m well aware of the privilege that accompanies even being able to dream of this possibility. However, with air travel as accessible as it is these days, it seems be at our fingertips, doesn’t it? (We can fool ourselves into thinking anything is normal, can’t we?)

But. Delayed gratification. It’s good for me. For all of us. Patience and watching the Lord move in His timing is a constant reminder that we are not in control. For people like myself, that reminder is very healthy and needed. I can always do with being brought down a few rungs – I generally find pleasure in having my ducks in a row, so the Lord gently (and sometimes not so) show me that He has ultimate say in my life, is a very good thing.

So, our family has the “Europe Jar”. It sits in our laundry room and has been there for years. We’ve filled it up twice already. We save every spare coin we come across. Literally, my girls will run across the street to grab a penny on the ground! And we throw it in the jar, reminded that we don’t get everything we want, when we want it. It’s been a good lesson for my girls, also. Who knows, maybe a huge family emergency will arise and the Europe Jar will end up going towards something much more worthwhile. That would be another wonderful lesson, wouldn’t it? For now, my girls are seeing that you don’t get everything you want, the moment you want it. Or even a year after you want it. Often, you wait. Through the waiting, you can either grind your teeth and be bitter at what others have that you don’t, OR you can cultivate a grateful and patient heart.

I want the latter for my girls (and myself) much, much more than I could ever want a trip to Europe.

Changes // Chesterton

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*This post was penned while I was cozily tucked in a mountain cabin. I had no knowledge of the events in Charlottesville, until we were were back in the city and I scrolled Twitter. My heart is grieved over the evil I saw. Our country is broken, in many ways, and I continue to pray for the love of Christ to sweep through the streets and homes of all citizens. 

***

Change is often good, healthy in fact. I’ve heard this for many years and have had to acclimate my mind to it, not being a person that immediately feels excitement, at the onset of conditions bending. I began feeling more familiar with change, in varying degrees, once I hit my thirties – reluctant, yet still attempting (and often succeeding) to not completely come unhinged. I’d like to think this acceptance was due to maturation, but I must confess it’s likely due to having multiple children and little sleep. No energy to argue with circumstance.

Small changes don’t deeply bother me – adjusting dates or expectations of events. Even what might seem to be a sizable change like deciding to educate our children at home, or contemplating a fresh career opportunity, are met with anticipation. Despite what some might know of me, I can actually be rather pliable. What has taken a period of adjustment, is acclimating to multiple series of substantial changes, and watching them manifest as new realities, rather than small adjustments. This has proven to be my current millstone. Sometimes I feel like I relate to Jacob Marley, drudging around with chains and key-locks. Perhaps that’s dramatic, but often I feel weighed down by constant transitions.

Without displaying the details, the last few years have left me feeling like I’m on a local, county fair roller coaster. Sometimes exhilarated by the impending unknown, but (more often) fearful and dizzy from what I have not yet experienced, and what might be on the horizon. Changes have rolled in like tidal waves and they haven’t always been welcomed. Life marches on, however, and there’s no halting it. And life is beautiful and overwhelming and vibrant. The good certainly and always outweighs the difficult.

But changes have been coming and they have left me longing for moments of familiarity. Not everything must conform to what is once was, nor should it, but small pockets of recognizable simplicities are always a comforting respite from the current deluge of difference.

And so when I find our family, yet again, winding the dusty pavement of our favorite mountain, my heart rested amongst all the sights surrounding me. The same rocks in the same place and the car swaying and turning arches, the same it does each time we travel to our ‘home away from home’. Finishing another chapter of Father Brown, placing one more piece in the ongoing puzzle on the dining table, and hearing the low hum of the metal fan that is perched on the stone hearth. All stable, unchanging, predictable things.

A melody from a time long ago plays, it comes from a time when life looked much different. One of my favorite albums, it was special 20 years ago and it still tugs at me now. I hum the tune knowing that change takes time, yet I would never trade my now for that familiar past. I will choose to remember the best of it and slowly, somewhat hesitantly, release the worst of the last few years.

And enjoy the memories with each trip. Each day. Both new changes and familiar cornerstones. Revel in the beautiful present day that the Lord has given me.

And await meeting Chesterton, again.

 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

 

 

deep thoughts // deep thinking

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If grad school has taught me anything, it’s that concentrating, really concentrating, is an art form. I venture to say that it’s rare to truly think deeply (by this I mean thinking about one subject for more than a sustained 15 minutes), without your entire body resisting, at first. If you’re a mother of little children, forget about it. You think in 30-second spurts and those spurts are punctuated by crying toddlers, potty training and requests for “cut up peaches but ONLY the hard parts of the peach because the soft parts are slippery and gross, mom”.

By the second course of my graduate program, I was handed an immense reading list, which would normally have lasted me a solid month. This reading list needed to be completed (with robust reflection) in one weeks time, and turned in with a complementary review and research attached. I was (am) out of my element.

While I have no doubt I will successfully complete my MA program (first child, type-A, tigermom RIGHT HERE) and receive my degree, the road I’m traveling, the journey towards more contemplative thinking, certainly has its costs. These costs entail time and energy – what’s forced upon me as a student is prolonged focus on one topic. Generally, this type of focus comes at the exclusion of all else, which is why it happens after my kids are tucked in. This alone has been an exercise in sacrifice – I hate staying up late, need my sleep and get anxious without rest. Even still, this adventure has brought to light my need and desire to not only have deep thoughts but to think deeply about them. I’m learning there is a wide chasm and a huge difference between these two activities. Concentrating takes great practice, is learned and must be adapted to. What began as seeing the benefits of deeply thinking in my grad program became a severe desire to profoundly think about all important areas of my life – my lifelong faith, parenting, education, relationships and emotions.

Society as a whole has a declining attention span (and here is where I could easily link to 25 recent articles confirming this fact, but take my word for it.) We constantly see the over-simplification of just about everything and it’s manifesting in our inability to concentrate on most things, the most drastic of these (in my estimation) is our failing capacity to read. People can’t even sit still long enough to read well-crafted blog posts anymore.  Heck, if an IG caption is too long, NOPE. Just keep scrolling.

In all honesty, I could take this post in an entirely link-based direction and provide you with a plethora of data to substantiate the suggestion that people no longer focus, concentrate or deeply think. I’m not going to do that, but I could (I take it back, go order this, this and this book.) It took enrolling in school and having to crank out weekly papers, while also homeschooling my own kids, being a good wife and friend and keeping the house from catching on fire, to show me that my ability to deeply think was disappearing. What upset me more than that simple fact was that I was surprised by it. I’ve become a product of our culture. Last January I deleted my FaceBook and Instagram accounts (of course I kept Twitter. Twitter is the balm for my political-junkie-meets-history-nerd-heart). As a result, for the last seven months, I’ve been retraining my mind to not be distracted. You never know how married you are to a platform/device/lifestyle,until you’re out of it. Once you have no photos to share, it turns out you don’t pull out your phone as much. You are just present and of course I’m not bemoaning all use of social media but I’m not sure people truly understand how deep involved they are – I certainly didn’t.

In the past few years, I have found myself surpressing my ability to “deeply think”, out of self-preservation. Sometimes deep thinking – pondering – can really take you to a place of reflection and awareness. While often beneficial, this can also be painful. Personally, I’ve found it’s easier to stop before you start. Perhaps that’s why many are so resistant to sitting with their thoughts. It’s painful and real and reflective. And who the heck has time for that nonsense?! In the last few months however, I have felt the push to face what is and allow my meditations to swallow me whole. Yes, there is an element of rawness in surrendering to tidal waves of unanticipated notions. All in all, however, it’s been the most gratifying experience I’ve had in some time. Through sitting with my thoughts, the Lord has been able to meet me. Strike that. Through sitting quietly with my thoughts, I’ve allowed and invited the Lord to meet me. He was there all along, I was just too busy and hurried to find Him.

I’m not sure where exactly to end this rumination.

I suppose that’s why I opened this space. So I won’t have to stop – I can just keep sharing. Hopefully growing. Always thinking.

I hope you’ll hang in there with me.