14 goals for 2014

14 goals for 2014 || Boldly, Tanya

Welcome to the New Year. I love beginnings and fresh starts. I understand that today is really no different that yesterday, and each second is a chance to begin again, but still… It’s NEW YEARS DAY – a day so symbolically different from every other one in the year. So, in the spirit of new opportunities (which I adore) here are my goals for 2014.

  1. Read more classics. I defined ‘more’ as 24, figuring that two per month is reasonable and attainable. I defined classics as anything off the first three pages of this list at Goodreads. I am starting with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass By Lewis Carrol, simply because I have it already. (I really want to stick to stuff I own, or can get free on my Kindle, or at the Library. Because my book habit can get expensive…)
  2. Drink more. I need to lighten up. I think at least three glasses per week should do it.
  3. Wash, dry, fold, AND put away, all on the same day. I hate laundry. It takes forever. I am never finished. I am pretty great at the first two, but the last two kill me. My laundry sits unfolded in baskets for days. The kids will scavenge wrinkled clothes from the hampers until the next laundry day, when all that remains are unmatched socks and underwear. It is downright shameful. So, realistically, my goal it that clothes will only sit one night in a basket.
  4. Save money. Don’t ask how terrible I am with finances. There are no words. I have a  reasonable number in my head, but it will be difficult. Out of all my goals, this is the one I dread.
  5. Read the Old Testament. I take it for granted. It is actually pretty adventuresome. I won’t be counting it as a classic though, because that would be cheating.
  6. Teach my baby to read. She is showing all the signs of readiness. It is time for me to stop being lazy and start sharing the most important gifts I can give…my time and knowledge and love of reading.
  7. Lose the weight I gained from quitting. It has been nearly 17 months since I quit smoking. I have gained about that much weight. Not pretty. It is the exact reason I resisted quitting for so long (I am vain).  Weight loss is part two of this journey. When it is gone, I can mentally consider the process complete. (The sooner, the better.)
  8. Write down corrections and do extra barres. (I take ballet.)
  9. Brew Kombucha. I tried it on vacation this summer. It’s taste good and makes me feel good. I have several friends who are brewing it, and their success is encouraging. Plus, I think my son will be fascinated by the process.
  10. Put more food away. We had a wonderful garden last year, but I feel like a lot of it was wasted because I was so bad at putting food away. It felt like a heavy upfront investment of both money and time. At the same time, it proves to be a worthy investment each time I open a jar of our canned tomatoes. There are so many fantastic ways to preserve fresh, homegrown food. I need to get over it and get busy.
  11. Grow out my hair. Cross your fingers that it will be long enough to get in a pony by the time the heat arrives.
  12. Run a 5K in 28 minutes. I would love for this to be run a half (or even a whole) marathon, but I have mechanically horrible feet. The one stress fracture I have suffered is enough to make me obey the doctors, who say I can’t run more than five miles. Instead of going farther, I will go faster.
  13. Watch Doctor Who. For no other reason than knowing what the heck all these people are talking about. I cannot tell you why I haven’t done this yet, except to say that I enjoy bucking convention. I have resisted on principle. However, I think it is time to see what all the fuss is about.
  14. Talk less and do more. I talk about doing a lot of things. I rarely get around to actually doing them. I think of them, stew over them, kick around ideas, pray about things, research, see what other’s think and put them on my list. Enough is enough. I may not change the world, but I can impact a life. That one life is enough to warrant action.

And in parting, here is my one resolution: To live in the moment. I can’t define that or measure it. I don’t know that I will ever fully realize it, but I will always strive for it. I want to be present and live like my time is precious. I want to constantly ask myself if I am contributing to the greater good. Am I being a light to the world, or casting shadows? Am I bearing fruit, or poisoning the soil? It matters. I don’t have a second to spare. Each one is numbered and each one counts. I want to use them in the best possible way.

Now, it is your turn. What are your goals or resolutions? I’d love to hear them!

13 things I learned in 2013

13 Things I Learned in 2013 || Boldly, Tanya

  1. Life is short. Our days are numbered and we don’t have a say. Most likely, what we have left will not be enough. Time is such a precious, precious commodity that I frivolously exhaust.
  2. I dwell in the past.  I replay endless loops of regret and remorse over the things I did, or didn’t do. I anguish over the stupid things I have said at the worst possible moments. I add up all the ways I have lacked and didn’t measure up to various standards of other’s and myself… It is a sad way to spend my valuable time.
  3. I want to write. I don’t care if I am good. I don’t care if no one reads it. I don’t care if everyone reads it. Okay, that last one is a lie. My words are a snapshot of my soul. Sharing them makes me feel vulnerable. Still, the need to turn letters into words into phrases into sentences into paragraphs into chapters into stories, is one that courses through my veins like life-sustaining blood. I have to do this for my sanity.
  4. I can’t love people like they are going to leave me and expect them to stay. I can’t keep people at a distance while asking them to open their doors wide and let me come crashing in. I can’t erect impenetrable walls and become enraged when someone can’t infiltrate them.  I can’t censor my thoughts and feeling and expect full and honest disclosure in return. The people I love deserve my vulnerability. They can’t love what I refuse to share, no matter how earnestly I ask it of them.
  5. Emotions are indicators, not dictators. That one is thanks to Lysa TerKeurst. Unglued. I highly recommend it.
  6. My brain tells lies. Vicious lies. I wish I could turn it off. I am seeking God and praying for the gift of discernment. Not every thought is bathed in truth, and the act of scurrying through my brain does not magically birth it into verity. I am learning to take the fabrications captive.
  7. JK Rowling really can write adult fiction. I hated The Casual Vacancy. I didn’t even finish it. So,when news broke that  The Cuckoo’s Calling was by JKR, but published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, I was torn. Behind The Bible and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Harry Potter is my all time favorite book(s).  I desperately needed to love a new book by her, but my bibliophilic heart could not handle another monstrosity like Vacancy. In the end, love conquered fear. The verdict: Cuckoo is amazing. It is clearly for adults, but not overtly so. Hopefully, it is the first in another series of excellent books. (I now think of Vacancy as JKR’s short-lived foray into vulgarity just to prove that she is writing adult fiction; like a literary Miley Cyrus, only much less extreme.)
  8. Some bridges need to be burned to the ground. I am not talking about taking someone for granted to the point they don’t want to help anymore, or saying something you can’t take back, or doing something unforgivable. This is bigger. I am talking about letting go of unhealthy things – dousing it in gasoline, lighting the match, and walking away. I want to call the fire department to quench the flames before any permanent damage is done. I may even sneak downstream to build another ramshackle bridge to shimmy back across a time or two before it also falls victim to the inferno. Sometimes, it is for me. Sometimes, it is for someone else. Regardless, I have to turn my back on  things (or people) that are lethal and burn those bridges down.
  9. My friends are the very best friends. They have relentlessly answered my calls with grace, understanding, kindness, generosity, long-suffering, and camaraderie. Events of this year have mercilessly put them to the test. I haven’t been the easiest person to love or support, yet their fealty is unwavering. They proved they are mine, whether I like it or not, regardless of what I have to give back. They are rare and exquisite and I love them.
  10. Assumptions really do make an ass out of me. Not you. Just me. I am the Queen of Conjecture – just ask my husband. I just conclude he is down with something because it is what I want. Bad assumption. I never purposefully  communicate or get concise answers. I casually throw things out there or mention them in passing, but I never actually discuss anything to completion. Terrible things usually result.
  11. I am in control of what comes out of my mouth. I am not in control of what other’s do with it once it leaves. I have a responsibility to speak good things. My words should not be virulent. I should not gossip, bring people down, spread intolerance and negativity, or use my words for malevolent purposes. I must also use discretion to determine if what I want to say really adds to the conversation and in appropriate for my audience. However, I do have a voice. I can use it. (for something other than yelling at my children.) I can say when I don’t like something. I can disagree. I can stand for what I believe. I can speak up for justice. That isn’t being malicious. It is being honest and respecting myself. I don’t have to stand idly by, subject to the wind or circumstance. I can speak.
  12. Other people do not define me. God made me. He defined me. He is the only one with the power to change that definition.
  13. Worry does nothing for me. The cost of my anxiety is unfathomable, and the reward is nil. While, I have not learned to conquer all of my fears, I have learned that it serves no purpose. It is a start.

The Question

nataherne

“Mom, what is wrong with my lip?”

I waited three years, ten months, and twenty-five days for her to ask. Not a day had passed that I didn’t prepare my answer. I pondered and planned and deliberated constantly. I wanted to handle this with eloquence, poise and grace. I wanted to lovingly take my baby into my arms and tell her how wondrously and beautifully she was made by a God who adores her and has a special plan for her life.

So naturally, nothing of the sort happened.

The day had been long. There was a dentist appointment. It sounds easy, but it was a far cry from simple. She is terrified of anyone that wants to touch her face. I thought she would be fine. They took her back with her big brave sister. She watched everything that was about to happen to her, happen to her sister. Yet when the time came for her to lay on the table and let them brush her teeth, she PANICKED. She clung to me, nearly ripping the shirt of my back, and the entire time I sat there telling her that it will be okay. That the dentist isn’t going to hurt her. But in my head, I was thinking about everything she has been through. About how her fears are valid. About how her journey is far from over. About how many times we are going to ask her to be brave. About how many times we will ask her to willing face pain that we can’t understand, while we sit there and placate her – telling her that it is okay, and she will be alright and that the pain will be short lived…unlike her scars.

Fresh from a bath, she was now sitting on my lap cocooned in towels. I had watched her play in the tub. I had watched her grab her father’s shaving mirror and examine her face. I had watched as she turned her head different directions so she could scrutinize from every angle. I had watched her wrinkle up her nose and try to jut out her lip while she poked at it. Somehow, none of this registered in my brain. In hindsight, I could see the question coming at me from a mile away. In the moment, it was just bath time.

I was drying the water between her toes when she blindsided me.

“Mommy, what is wrong with my lip?”

My heart stopped. My chest constricted. I flushed and became hot and nauseous. My mouth was dry and my ears were buzzing so loudly that I couldn’t hear myself think. Suddenly, I couldn’t see her toes anymore. I could only see bright red pin pricks rapidly multiplying as they shot toward my nose.

It is the same reaction I have anyone asks about her lip.

Numbly (if not miraculously), I stammered out “Well, Honey, you were born with a funny lip, so the doctors had to fix it.”

***

Really?

I mean REALLY?

After all the agonizing deliberation I went through to ensure I had an intelligent premeditated response, that was what came out of my mouth.

But, you know what? It worked for her. She didn’t press any further. She didn’t need me to explain any more. She paused in contemplation, and then asked if we had to brush her hair because she was sure that all the tangles washed away in the bath.

Maybe, at three years, ten months, and twenty-five days, she doesn’t need eloquence in my answers. Maybe she just needs honest answers.

Initially, I thought I failed. I didn’t pray enough, or prepare enough, or impart enough wisdom. But again (thank you, hindsight), maybe it was exactly enough. Perhaps God gave me the perfect words for her, regardless of how contrived and simple they sound to me. Perhaps he made my response childish because I was dealing with a child. (novel, I know.)

As a dear friend reminded me, there will be plenty of opportunities to have this conversation again, and as she grows, so will the depths of this conversation.

My response can mature as she does.

The inertia of grief

Statue of Our Lady of La Salette, sitting cryi...

Statue of Our Lady of La Salette, sitting crying (first part of apparition). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

We were about an hour from our Thanksgiving destination when we got the call.

He is dead, we were told.

We pulled the car over because we didn’t understand. Celebrating Thanksgiving together was tradition – upheld for the past ten years. Regardless of circumstance, we always carved this time out for each other. We had been texting that morning; finalizing our weekend plans. He was supposed to finish this shift, then join us at the cabin for the holiday. He had already dropped off his puppies at the kennel. He was, effectively, on his way.

We were not supposed to be sobbing on the side of the road with someone was trying to tell us he was dead.

***

“Undiagnosed heart condition”. What does that even mean? There was still air in his lungs. It happened so fast, he didn’t have time to exhale. He was 34 years old. He was health conscious and a gym rat. It doesn’t make sense.

He was so intricately woven into our lives. He was more than just a dear friend. He was the family we chose. Our children called him “uncle”. We called him “brother”. (Called…)

And it is over.

I sat in the front row of the his funeral. I stared at his lifeless body laying in a casket. I shivered through the haunting rendition of taps. I shed endless tears as I tried to say goodbye.

All the while, one dirge kept churning through my murky mind: I never told him. I never shared. Now, I could very well have lost him forever.

I was so worried about losing him on this earth, that I didn’t share the one thing that would have kept me from losing him for eternity: I never told him about Jesus.

***

Guilt. Shame. Regret. Confusion. Anger. Sadness. Remorse. Pain.

These are the forces acting against me. I was a semi and they were a brink wall. Upon collision, I was forced to halt. The mass of rubble is incomprehensible.

How do I overcome this: the inertia of grief? I just sit here wrestling with my thoughts. Even in this season of advent, my faith has no momentum. It can’t transcend this anguish. I continually battle to replace feelings and lies with reason and truth. I desperately cleave to the promises of my Savior, and pray He gives me strength to hang on.

Because this is hard. Everything feels brittle and artificial.

I believe He provides everything I need. I believe He will turn this tragedy into something that brings glory to His Kingdom. I believe He is my Shelter and my Refuge. I believe His Spirit brings comfort and peace. He is the only force strong enough to prevail over this languor.

***

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

That time one time I called a girl ugly…

I was standing by a stairwell in which ever high school happened to be hosting that specific debate tournament. My boyfriend was close. His suit was slick and cold against my skin; while his hand, holding mine, was a supple inferno. (Why did he always have to be so enchantingly warm?) He smelled like a wood burning stove when the cast iron is cold and the embers are almost dead; with a hint of stale cigarettes, and outdoors on a foggy morning, and an old musty house…

We stood side by side peering over the railing, as he heatedly recounted some ludicrous argument the other team had made, which he (naturally) demolished in three neatly outlined sub points to his original argument (complete with evidence quoted in Newsweek by the leading expert). I wasn’t really listening. I never listened. I was too distracted by the cool suit and intoxicating scent and exquisite hands and galvanic eyes of the boy I loved. I don’t know what pulled me out of the trance long enough to notice her.

Was it the ears jutting out of her bland dishwater bob? Was it her limp hair dangling about her shoulders? Was it her thin frame clumsily adorned with the ill-fitting suit? Was it the flatness of her profile, or the way her eyes squinted, or the button tip inexplicably adorning her sharp nose? Maybe it was her knobby knees, or skinny wrists. Maybe it was her chicken legs or unfashionable shoes. Maybe it was just that she was extraordinarily plain.

Did she know how awkward she was? Or how funny she looked? Did boys like her? Did girls tell her she was pretty?

She captivated me. I was utterly and irrationally fixated on her.

“Why are you staring at her?” my boyfriend interrupted. I had been caught.

“She just looks weird to me,” I answer.

“How do you mean?” he asks, after pausing to examine her for himself.

“She is kind of … ugly, don’t you think?” I reply.

He just shrugs as we turn and walk back to the cafeteria.

As we approach the tables commandeered by our school, our debate coach bounds up to me and excitedly says, “Tanya, we just found your twin!”

I blinked at him. I have a twin. She was also in debate. She was sitting at the adjacent table.

“No really. This girl and Cindy (my actual twin) must have been switched at birth! It is unreal. She is a shorter version of you!” he exclaims.

I raise a confused eyebrow.

“Look!” he points, “There she is!”

My stomach lurched. My breath caught. Tears spilled from my eyes.

(You saw this coming didn’t you…)

It was the girl I had just called ugly.  

They were telling me that the girl I thought was ugly could be my twin.

I looked at my boyfriend, and predicting my question, he shook his head no. (But not in a no-you-don’t-look-at-all-like-the-girl-you-said-was-ugly way. It was a don’t-lose-your-mind-in-front-of-hundreds-of-high-school-kids-because-it-will-come-back-to-haunt-you-even-more-than-this-ugly-thing way.)

I asked my debate coach if he overheard my conversation and was trying to teach me a lesson.

It was his turn to raise that confused eyebrow as he walked away, having no clue what I was talking about.

I sat in the cafeteria and studied her during the time before our next round.

Everything I had thought was ugly on her, from head to toe, really was one of my defining characteristics.  Her beauty lay in the places we differed. The color of her eyes. Her graceful mannerisms. Her soft nature. Her dulcet voice.  (I sound like a pubescent boy on helium…)

I had to debate against her during the final rounds of that tournament.

I lost.