Monday, May 11, 2015

Doing, Doing, Done

Today I'd like to welcome back Noelle Juday. Like me, Noelle believes in the beauty and power in sharing our stories. Noelle blogs regularly at NBrynn, where you will find everything from her daughter's gorgeous ballerina birthday party to insight about marriageparenting, and orphan care. Please welcome Noelle as she shares more of her story with us today.

If you're like me, you are kissing the green ground you walk on everyday, thanking God for the not-a-moment-too-soon arrival of Spring. Finally! We can play outside with our children without a million pounds of clothes, without frozen fingers and slippery, snotty faces. We can run with our shoes off and watch as the world around us turns shades of every imaginable color. We can eat our lunch outdoors, leave our crumbs for the critters and with faces smiling toward the sky, soak up some much needed Vitamin D. And so outside we dash...

Sometimes I'm amazed at how much I enjoy nature, at how much life it gives to us. Now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, I have the luxury of getting to indulge my desire to be outside, much more than when I was stuck in a cubicle eight or so hours a day (sorry, office workers). And thankfully this feels like a luxury, because for my kids, it's a necessity. There is a very obvious change in their behavior if they don't get to play outside. They are grumpy, much harder at hearing, whiny and unhappy. We all suffer. 

That's why I've been known to throw on rain boots or flip flops and let the kids stomp around in the muddy crevices in our backyard, or bundle them up and head to a park even though the slides are still covered in dew (or snow!). I learned very early on in my parenting career that muddy boots and piles of laundry were a very fair trade-off for an hour of joyful, refreshing outdoor play. And so outside we dash, because we all need the fresh air. We need the open space. We NEED the outdoors. I know this about my family and I. 

Another thing I know about myself: Learning to be mindful and present, to keep my heart connected throughout the mundane moments of every day comes about as naturally to me as opera singing, that is to say, not at all. I am much more natural at flurrying and scurrying, at running here and there, checking this and that, doing, doing, done. I often feel like I am barely keeping up with the necessary logistics of raising two toddlers, maintaining a home and running a small business. My own soul all too often finds a spot last on the endless to-do lists, absurdly appearing in the form of, "Call a friend just to say Hi" and "Read for 30 minutes during nap," since otherwise I wouldn't feel justified in doing those things at all. Many times I cannot seem to slow the wheels or speed them up or whichever it is that's keeping me from having clear, heart thoughts when I want to. From feeling rested and present. And I'm desperate for those quiet moments; those rare chances to connect with myself and God, to refocus my days as needed.

And so as I was thinking about the stir-crazy itch that comes about by the end of so many winter days indoors, and also about how endlessly my spirit seems to be flitting and running to and fro in busyness and distraction, I started to wonder if my soul feels "trapped indoors," too. Like there's not enough fresh air to breath or enough space to move; just grumpy and confined and whiny and in need of a good dose of the great outdoors, "soul-style". Whatever that means, right? I'm not sure either, but I sense that there's a connection here. So I ask myself...
What would it look like for my soul to get that fresh air, open space, outdoor experience that my body so thrives on? 
And I answer inwardly, Time. Time alone. Time with no demands. Surely time would help. Maybe new input…new books, new music, good art, good conversation. Ah, yes, good conversation with a soul-to-soul sort of friend. 

These thoughts are fresh are in my mind as I remember the day last summer when the kids and I dashed outdoors again, this time heading straight for our favoriting digging post. My 18-month-old daughter and I sit in a pile of dirt and slowly explore to our hearts' content, while my almost three-year-old son runs around kicking his ball, stopping by every now and then to see if we have found anything worth seeing. We usually end up with a few "neat" rocks, an ant or two and always a worm. The worms are our favorite! 

In my experience, earthworms are usually pretty calm creatures, especially once they've been unearthed and removed from their moist, dark homes underground. They tend to more or less lay, flinching here and there as prodded by a blade of grass or a stick. This day, however, we found a wild one. This was no ordinary worm. He was small (a "tiny baby" as my daughter calls everything under the age of 10!) and he was non-stop motion.

We must have taken turns holding him, laying him on the ground and carrying him around on our shovels for a good twenty minutes. He squirmed the entire time. We tried laying dirt back on top of him to see if that would calm him down. Squirm, writhe, thrash. My son found a second worm - a cool, calm and collected worm - and suggested we lay them together so that the wild worm would have a friend. Squirm, writhe, thrash. 

Finally it hit me. After watching this silly, squirming worm for so long, I am suddenly aware of the moment in a deeper way and connected to my heart. My crazy, writhing, squirming, thrashing self catches up with the present moment and I have this clear thought: I am just like this worm! Constant motion with no lasting calm. Spinning my wheels, going, going, going - working so hard, for what? Flurrying and scurrying until life starts to feel like such a struggle, like an endless battle for survival and connection and rest. Kicking and flailing around like this crazy worm, all the while missing so many of the lifelines available at any given time. 
At first I'm crushed. Then the compassionate side of myself reminds me that for years now I have stopped so much of the spinning. I have learned and lived the truth that increased activity will not lead to increased happiness or wholeness or any such thing. 
Years back, when I first recognized the squirming and writhing nature in myself, and saw how it defined everything from my figure to my faith, I knew something had to change. For this reason and others, I left a leadership position at a church I had spent a decade at, and spread my wings out with all the hard questions I had never allowed myself to air before. I honored my instincts and for once in my life stopped following all the rules and doing "all the right things," and instead started listening to my heart. 

At the time, I was so tired, so confused, so disillusioned by all the striving and spinning that  had defined much of my religious faith up to that point. I desperately needed some fresh air - a place for my soul to breathe. I needed open space and room to squirm or to question or to just lay still for a while. I really needed a good friend, too. 
But here's the crazy thing about giving up an addiction - in my case an addiction to religious activity and to people-pleasing: The place where that addiction once lived, now stands a hole, a wound, an empty space longing to be filled. 

So, as I watched that worm, I knew that even as my soul has calmed and quieted in ways in the past few years that it longed for, it yells and squirms and writhes still in other ways. All that religious activity was filling a hole and then there was just a hole. And a worm. Squirm, writhe, thrash. 

A few months after seeing myself in that crazy, flailing worm, I participated in a Brene Brown/Oprah ecourse on wholehearted living and was challenged with one of the most profound thoughts in existence, at least to a recovering perfectionist like me:
I am imperfect AND I am enough.  
I wrestled with this claim all Fall, rolled it over and over on my tongue, wrote it on the wall and on sticky notes and on my hand. Finally, I started to really see it. To really believe it. And as I did, I knew that this had been the missing piece all along, the soil that was needed to fill my heart-hole. 

You are enough.
You are enough.
You are enough.

Today, still, I am letting this truth sink in. I am re-believing it everyday, usually many times a day. Somedays I find I can walk in it fully, but most days I do more of a tumble-spin-splat waltzing sort of dance with it. It's a work in progress. As am I. 

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