In Between.

 Visa photo of a tired girl.

Visa photo of a tired girl.

It’s been rough. I feel burned out. And we are getting ready to go to India, which is restful and not, all at the same time.

This morning I have been taking some time just to feed the artist girl. Watching videos and listening to songs that inspire. I’ve had a lot of tasks lately. Marketing and bookkeeping. Making lists and travel plans. Family and homeschool. This is my home, but I sometimes I crumble under it all. 

The artist girl needs to be free. Rides on the bike. Running, listening to birds call in the morning. The darkness that calls me awake. Coffee. Sleeping in tents. Sleeping under trees. Watching the sky in all its different colors. Pictures keep me awake. I make mistakes in my words and with my own voice. I would rather sing than do anything.

I am a mother, artist, and wife. I am a writer, monk, and mystic. I am a follower and a leader. I wait in the morning for inspiration. I claw words out of my brain. I censor myself. I try to be true. I am always relating. Always a friend. Always longing for paint or pencil. Always a mess.

The blue sky calls me, asking me to fly in this dance between surrender and freedom.

Sometimes it is all too much. 

Sometimes I cannot hold myself to the schedule. Get the tasks done.

Sometimes all I can do is pray and wait.

Sometimes there is no action point, no way to fix it all. Just a way to live here and there. In the space between what God is calling me to, and what I am now. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as $1 a month, and get extra vlogs and posts. I'm so thankful for you! Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. Patrons- the vlog and day in the life videos for January are up!

December Musings: The Wild Mind

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I am ready for a new year. Ready for new things to come. In the last months I have broken many of my own rules about getting enough sleep and exercise, enough rest, and taking each day as it comes, and am feeling the effects come back to me in self-loathing and poor mental health, so a clean start will be good.

I am tired of the battle of my mind. I feel like giving up. But Chin up buttercup, you don’t get to choose which mind will be yours

I am not neurotypical, and processing the world and the social interactions of life is exhausting. When I am not careful, I can take it all on in waves and only see the failures, rather than anything good about me. I see the places where I get it wrong, messing up in my family and life, getting distracted, feeling lost and not understanding. I see how my illness effects my family. I begin to live from my weakness, rather than living in joy. And it all leads to more self-loathing, to more self-contempt.

Thankfully, I have been around the block a few times. I have lists and lists of things that help, and in the week leading up to Christmas I’m pulling them all out.

Self care for me means:

*Creative work in the morning

*Lots of sleep

*Cooking

*Knitting or crocheting

*Lying on the floor

*Looking at designs and patterns

*Sketching or painting for fun

*Exercise

*Reading books on creativity and devotion

*A well-written novel

*Scooter rides

*Reading poems every day

*Taking rhodiola rosea every day

*Decluttering with love (not self-contempt)

*Candles, oils, incense. Good smells and good light.

*Listening to music

*Practicing my mandolin

*Markets and shops with interesting curious things

*Journaling

And most of all,

*Gratitude and lists of things I love to pull me out of bleakness

So here are some things I love. I love the way the light hits my kitchen in the afternoons. I love the expectation and breath of the holidays, the way Kenya sits and makes things every day to be ready. I love Isaac’s warm little body in the mornings. I love bricks and pinecones. The way my teenagers love to chat with me. Quirky people around my town. The garden in the late afternoon. Hands in the dirt. Crocheting my rainbow ripple blanket. Chopin. Blasting Handel’s Messiah from my outdoor kitchen so that I’m the weird neighbor. My other quirky neighbor who dances on the street every night. My elderly next-door neighbor's high, crackly voice, especially when she's talking to Wookie or her cats. Wookie. When Thai women smack me when they’re laughing at me. Chinua. Chinua. Chinua. The gray scruff on Chinua’s face. Chinua’s voice. The smell of his forehead. Leafy hugs in the mornings. Dear friends. Good things in the future. Good things for today.

I have not been left alone. The Spirit of God is with me. Even me, with my wild mind. Even with me, not able to relate in easy or intuitive ways. The Spirit of God comes and pulls me into the day and says, “Yes, together. Yes.” 

What about you? Do you struggle with something that feels exhausting? What is your version of self care?

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer videos and day in the life posts. Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. Thank you.

Patrons, This month's Q and A video will be up today! xoxo

December musings: Love

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I often wonder what on earth can solve these spaces between us, and the way we see and don’t see each other. The way we barely skim the surface. In marriage, in life, glances from people just passing by, the best intentions of our friends. We can never truly know each other.

Money and goals and lists of things to do. Is this really what we’re made of? 

Oh, but in the advent, I am changed by hope. Lately hope has been a rare treasure. I reach for it in the mornings and find that I’ve misplaced it. But the object of my hope lives outside of me and beyond me. He is so much bigger than me, his breath creates stars, and he is not dependant on me for my consistency, thank the skies. 

I am as flimsy as a piece of paper. Oh, it is so good that the world is not mine to save.

So what can move in the gaping spaces? This is my big question on this retreat, as I move between what I aim to do and what I actually do, what I hope to understand and what I actually comprehend. What my life shape is, compared to the pictures of life around the world, the way the loudness of it all seems to silence me.

It can only be love. Love will change the way I see the story of my life. Love will expand each day into something more mysterious than failed goals, will breathe on me with holy breath that expands and sustains. My failures can be as huge as the failure to control my tongue or as small as an unreturned email, but love flies in with a cape and soothes the ache.

And it soothes it enough that I might actually begin to embrace failure, might believe that it is a result of risks taken, all our attempts at the large work of love in the universe. Failure is not the same as sin, but my mind says it is. 

Right now I do not embrace it. All my work is done with gritted teeth against its possibility. I think I embrace brokenness but truly do not. I embrace the romantic idea of brokenness but not the crying into the pillow. I think I would much prefer perfection, a smooth sky of unending blue. Trees are easier to be around than people because relating is so hard, but people are the landscape of love, the moving fabric of this whole long story of redemption. Love comes with a cup of honey, a soft song, and whispers that we are truly known, even when the spaces between us feel like the emptiness between planets. This act of love, the impending incarnation, is love taking an immense leap from far away and landing with all the gentleness of a small bird.

Oh Holy Night. Come to us again. Bring love, bring love. 

***

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer videos and day in the life posts. Your patronage shows your support for my writing, and it means so much to me. Thank you.

Patrons, send in your questions for this month's Q and A video! xoxo

Excellent at math.

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I've taken a break from writing after the last launch (which is going well, my loves, thanks for the reviews) and have been painting a bit. Painting, reading and writing poetry—trying to refill the creative well. I always have to remind myself that I am not a robot. I can't just program tasks for myself and then follow orders. And this applies to writing life and to home and family life. I have to be patient and kind with myself. I have to give space in the days for beauty and fun.

So painting is like breathing life into myself, like play.

Like Leafy making light sabers, or Kenya drawing face after face, in every pose and expression. Like Isaac dancing. 

(Right now I see Leafy walking past the studio door every few minutes, on his thinking circuit. He walks in a large path, throughout the day, thinking and planning. I'm fairly sure he will come up with the solution to climate change pretty soon.)

My older two kids have taken my advice about making schedules for the school day, carving the day into blocks of time when they will concentrate on individual subjects rather than facing the whole big lump of work. They're loving it. But they are learning that though schedules are helpful, they aren't kind taskmasters. We are not robots. We need to block in time for rest, too. 

(Tiny tip: the best advice I ever heard on time management is to put to-do items in the schedule, not on a list. If I want to paint, I have to block time out for it, not just add it to the end of an ever-growing list.)

But enough about lists. Here are some cool things:

- I found a spot on nearly-the-top of a mountain, and I discovered that I very much like to sit there and let the burdens and sorrows of the day flow away from me. 

- My favorite noodle lady came back to town and I have eaten at her stall three times in the last five days.

- Isaac is excellent at Math and I just found Chinua and him talking through some addition and subtraction instead of a bedtime story.

- Asha can recite a string of numbers from Pi, speaking of kids who are excellent at Math.

- Every day I am thankful that I get to shop in an open air market.

- We talked about our Christmas gathering today. We have a big one every year, and it's nearly that time again!

- Leaf and I are going on an art retreat, which we haven't done since Isaac was two months old. But we both need to get visas in Laos at the very same time, so it seems as though it was written for us.

- I'm not so bad at Math myself, although I don't have any part of Pi memorized.

- There are so many days ahead, so many days that we can fill with thinking, knitting, praying, creating. I can't count them all, I can't figure out how the hours and scheduling should work for of all them, but I know each day contains the possibility of experiencing God's love in a different way. A knitterly way. A caramel cheesecake way. A watercolor way. How good it is, flowing over us. 

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby, Alicia Wiggin, Kathleen Anderson, Timothy Silva, and Ami Thompson. Your support keeps this writer going!

Patrons in the second tier, there is a brand new Day in the Life post for you here.  

This and that.

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This last week has been full in all the best ways. Food and singing, writing and school. Trick or treating. A birthday party. And now a book group retreat.

The week started off with community lunch, and I made sprouted moong dal coconut curry, a Mangalorean dish that Jaya used to make. Then on Monday we started school and I read chapter after chapter of books to the kids, drew out their schedules, and introduced the oldest two to my way of scheduling in time chunks. Which they love. They’ve been doing it every day to get their work done, and I think it’s giving them a feeling of control of their day. That’s what it does for me, though I may be deceiving myself there. I seem to have very little control over my day in reality. That’s a half joke.

We sang Jesus bhajans in the afternoon at Shekina Garden, in the golden light that comes in November, and I watered my new seedlings in my garden bed. Tuesday was more watering and trick or treating in the evening. Most people hadn’t remembered Halloween, as it isn’t really a Thai thing, but some people had and gave the kids treats. They caused a lot of joy, walking around the Walking Street (our night market) in their costumes.

Wednesday was my day to guide meditation, and then I had Thai class, and then we drove around looking for a person’s house, and we never did find it. I drove the chariot with the kids, since Chinua had the car in Chiang Mai, and we wove in and out of villages, through rice fields and jungles. Though we didn’t find the house, it was very, very beautiful, with cool November air in our hair as we drove. Eventually we gave up on looking for the house, and went home.

And Thursday was the best day of the week, as it was my friend Leaf’s birthday and I had the privilege of helping to throw her a birthday party. Solomon and I baked a cake, getting every dish dirty, and I bought a new dress at the second hand shop in town. It was a dress up party, so in the evening, Chinua and I had fun getting dressed and putting feathers in our hair. We had the party at a nearby, beautiful restaurant, and there were candles and lights, cushions on the grass, the river rushing nearby, music and dancing. We had the tiniest soul train in the world and Chinua danced with me, which happens very, very rarely. It was beautiful. People from around the world had sent Leaf snippets of thoughts and blessings, and as we read them out, the love piled up. It’s rare that so much appreciation of a person’s care accumulates in one evening. It’s beautiful when it happens. It was a true celebration of her, with many friends. And she has given to so many people over the years. Her wisdom, creativity and generosity is renowned. How beautiful to have it spoken out. 

The next morning, I worked on my launch info and final formatting of my new book, and then I drove three hours down the mountain to get to my book group retreat. I’ve been part of a book reading group for the last three years, though I haven’t made it to meetings as often as I should, because of my distance and busy life. This was their 24 year anniversary retreat, and I was determined to make it, so I drove around curves and up and down mountains. The drive was beautiful. The Mexican sunflowers are blooming on the sides of the roads, and the yellow flowering trees are in bloom. Marigolds were planted everywhere for the king’s cremation, so the entire stretch of road was glowing in different shades of yellow.

The retreat has been lovely. Today is the last day, and I’m finally taking a moment to write. We hiked, and talked, and ate. People shared memories of their time in the group, and talked about life back when they first came to Thailand. (It’s an expat group of women.) There is a lot of wisdom in the group. I’m more than twenty years younger than any of the other women, and I love to hear their experiences in Laos, India, and Thailand in the seventies and eighties. Life here was so different then. I wish I could catch a glimpse of it.

We went for a hike yesterday, among pines and along a mountain ridge. I have been weary, doing so many different things since before I left for America. But being outside in the golden air, surprised by flowers that appear suddenly in the jungle, weariness slips away. We stepped on pine needles and through baby mango tree orchards. We walked through a Hmong village and saw rose farms. It was beautiful.

I’m hoping the coming week will be a little less full, to be honest, but I treasure these ones that are so busy, because they are filled to the brim with good things: with life and God and people and work. And there are flowers everywhere.

 

I’m thankful for the flowers.

 

*** 

Now you can support my writing on Patreon. Patrons can give as little as a dollar a month, and get extra question and answer video posts and other content. Thanks so much to this month’s new patrons: Brittani Truby, Alicia Wiggin, and Kathleen Anderson. Your support keeps this writer going!  

Patrons, your video will be up this week. Books have been sent to third-tier supporters. The link is in your Patreon messages. Thank you so much!