Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Meet my Newness

Dear Annie,

Where to begin... It has been weeks months since I've sat down to write and weeks months since I've felt the mental space to do so. Surprisingly, it's not the wedding that has clouded my thought processes (the ten-day countdown begins today!!!!), or really any specific change that has occurred in the past two months. The only thing I can really put my finger on is the Newness of it all. I haven't settled into a rhythm with my weekly work schedule, I haven't nailed down the things I need to do everyday (or most days) for self care, and I don't have a list of my favorite places, restaurants or hikes.

Soon, possibly very soon, Newness will fade and Normalcy will take it's place; I'll have my routines and preferences and most likely feel more settled than I do now; this fact is neither good nor bad, just the ebb and flow of life. With this fact of life in mind, however, I feel proud of myself for allowing Newness to take up space in my mind. These types of enormous life changes are rare and, to an extent, sacred; they deserve to be fully embraced. And truthfully, I believe I have...


For example: I have waited in line for 50 minutes for my first taste of the best ice cream in Denver (Little Man's), taken free swing dancing lessons in public, spontaneously searched for the best wine bar in Denver to celebrate the simple fact that it was a Friday night, hosted our first guests for dinner our apartment, and ran my first marathon! (Just kidding on the last one, but it's on the bucket list for sure).

Granted, my everyday life is not a cannonball into the deep end of Newness that fills my life, but my days are significantly different both from one another and from my days 2 months ago, and for the most part, I've embraced that. (Disclaimer: I haven't figured out how or why yet- any thoughts?)

The acceptance I feel about my life and the changes that have occurred also give me a deep sense of hope. Things are going to keep changing: single to married, living alone to living with someone else, and I might even be starting a new job soon (that's a whole other topic). But I have hope that the Lord will use that Newness, as he uses all things, for His glory and my good if I trust him with those changes and ask for His guidance and wisdom. I have A LOT of learning to do, and probably a lot of mistakes to make, but I feel more equipped to fail and to learn than I ever have in my life. Maybe that's a newfound maturity or a new sense of open mindedness regarding God's plan for my life--who knows? All I know is it's new, and I'm trying my darnedest to live into it.

In which areas of your life are you experiencing Newness? (if any)
Have you found yourself becoming more spontaneous or more planned/orderly as you've gotten older?
Any new experiences you've had in your own hometown recently?

Love you tons,
Rachel


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Carry On, Warrior

Dear Rachel,

You got that right - forced rest is a helpful kickstart to those who are high functioning and performing (at least for me it was!). Especially in light of the "residual stress" you talked about and the feelings of anxiety it allowed to linger, what has rest felt like for your mind, body, and spirit? Can you name noticeable changes in your attitude or overall perspective since you have rested in this season? Do you think this period of "resting well" will allow you to also transition well?

How cool that you associated the idea of rest with the anticipation of a transition. I feel like often times I view the time before change as a space for me to gear up, get ready, and actively prepare - to worry and to hustle. But I love that God commands us to rest! He knows we need it! And I love that he has given you this time of rest before a few big changes in your life...He knows what you'll need and He'll be the one to carry you through those transitions.

Yesterday, I had an interesting realization during my normal walk at work. I was listening to worship music and all the sudden got this feeling that this time of praise was preparing me for "battle." I think about Joshua and how their weapons as they were surrounding the walls of Jericho were instruments to sing praise to God. However, I wasn't sure why I was considering the remainder of my day a "battle"... seems a little extreme for a corporate job. But little did I know! The remainder of my day was marked by little battles for my mind as several overwhelming demands and difficult situations were presented to me by coworkers. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I felt prepared and cared for - that God would prepare me to fight well for His truth and that I would cling to His promises as I was trying to navigate these difficult circumstances and work through the overwhelming demands. In the midst of the business, I felt protected because my identity was secure.

"Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable than they are?" - Matthew 6:26



When I rest and worship, I take God's truth into my outer world. When I hustle and worry, I live by my own understanding. Rest and worship seem to both prepare us well for the battles ahead, big or small, anticipated or unannounced, as Scripture affirms.

Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding....

Both this season of rest and these times of worship have allowed me to approach the outside world with a clear head and a patient heart, which I only am given by the grace of God and the hope His redemption provides.

Cheers to more rest and worship for our good and His glory!

Love,
Annie

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rest Up, Buttercup

Dear Annie,

I absolutely loved hearing you (laughingly) tell me over the phone that 1) you had mono and 2) that those weeks were some of the best of your life and then be able to read you beautiful reflection on the "why" and "so what" parts of that experience. I loved how you saw God in that whole experience too; you didn't assume he struck you with this illness out of his dissatisfaction with your lack of restfulness, but you were able to see the peace of His rest in spite of a pretty miserable situation. I felt terrible when I heard you had mono, but I now have a new form of sympathy after my own pretty miserable situation...just days after we talked on the phone I had a nasty bout of food poisoning! Although my sickness was gone in a matter of days (nothing in comparison to mono), I had a little snap shot of that forced rest you mentioned and felt grateful for it as well!

Throughout all my time at Westmont I experienced a phenomena I labeled "residual stress." I would study my butt off for weeks at a time in preparation for a massive test, but then, even when the test was over, I would experience a decently high level of anxiety about whatever I was doing. The days leading up to the exam I would cram every waking moment with a flashcard or a practice quiz, training my brain to fire on this go go go frequency; it's no surprise, then, that the feeling of I-must-be-doing-something-at-all-times left me stressed out for the next few days. All that to be say: I did not rest well. Not to say I never rested, but it just wasn't a normal part of my life as a college student.

Life today looks a lot different than life back at Westmont. As you know I'm in a kind of interim period in life. I graduated at the beginning of May but will not start my new job until the beginning of June, leaving me with about 4 weeks of family time and necessary relaxation. It's also odd because in a matter of days I'll start the process of moving my entire life to a new state, begin a new job, and finish up the wedding planning for the last seven weeks of our engagement. With all these changes on the horizon I truly feel like these 4 weeks have been such a sweet gift, a time to rest up, dig in to family and life in Pleasanton, and transition well to this new phase of life.




Rest right now looks like reading in my local coffee shop (that my sister also works at), catching up on my favorite TV shows (like Survivor, duh), and doing summer-y things like walking a mile or two to get froyo with my family (original tart is my fav). However, my mom and I start the drive to CO tomorrow morning, and I have to admit, I have absolutely no idea what rest is going to look like when I'm living alone in the new apartment and starting a completely new job. On top of that, a couple times a month I will be working a 12-hr weekend shift, completely throwing a traditional 'sabbath' day out the window. While I have no idea what rest will look like after I settle in to CO life, your letter reminded me how grateful I am for this time of rest and how focused I need to be on resting in the upcoming weeks. The 'rest' of my thoughts are definitely in a to-be-continued phase. I have no idea what life is going to look like, but I would love to talk about rest again...maybe in 4 months? ;) With a kitchen all to myself, though, I know cooking will be a big part of my rest/self care routine--maybe some new Rachel approved recipes will make an appearance in a letter pretty soon!
Next letter comin' at you from the big CO!
Love,
Rachel


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why Mono Was One of This Year's Greatest Gifts

Dear Rachel,

What cool observations of yours! I loved your letter and am excited with the direction you took it. I have several trains of thought around intuitive movement that I'm still learning how to articulate, but they would be fun to dialogue about with you. Case in point, my processing below: I only scratched the surface of the questions you asked.

I've been listening to birds more the past couple of months. They sing their songs all day long: in the morning I rise and hear them, during my walks at work I listen for them - they each sing such beautiful, spontaneous songs.

But, through listening to them, I've also learned from them. Their songs have taught me the beauty of restful contemplation - living slow in tension with my inherently ambitious rush-filled routine.
Rachel, I think my journey towards intuitive movement has stemmed from this restful contemplation. I want to share with you how having mono allowed me to realize my longing to return to dance.

On Easter this year, I starting feeling mono-like symptoms, took a test and it proved positive. Mono took me in and out of work for three weeks and quite often plopped me on my living room couch. The first Monday morning when I realized I wouldn't be going to work that entire day, amidst the puffed up eyelids, and filled up sinuses, a smile emerged across my face and my heart slowed down as I sunk into the couch: REST. Finally. My mind was at such odds with the reaction of my body as it found a space to just be… 


Lesson learned//loud + clear: I hadn't been giving myself nearly adequate enough rest. 
I had been giving time-heavy doses of energy to the routines of my life that I thought were making me my most productive and useful self. I made plans so that I could keep the energy moving, keep the momentum going. With the ammo from enough penciled-in friend times, Gilmore Girls episodes, workouts, healthy meals, COFFEE, ministry, I could make this stressful workweek the most creatively life-giving! I could squeeze every nook and cranny of time so that I was giving my all for the glory of God! And then I got Mono (and God laughed as a father might at their infant trying to run across the room after just learning how to take her first step) - God’s always teaching me things at a slower pace then I’d like. 

I thought I was being creative by creating plans for productivity, but at the end of the day my inspiration was dry, my mind was fried, and my body was fatigued. All along, my poor little body, my poor little creative self. I wasn't giving it any voice. I was giving it a job. I wasn't listening to what it was asking of me. I was telling it what it should want and giving it that and only that. And its response? "I can't do this anymore Annie."
So Mono was my scape goat. No movement, no initiating plans to match ambition with action - just REST. This rest not just allowed me to heal from mono, but it invigorated my creative spirit. The time I spent on the couch simply being a human (in a decrepit state) reminded me of my overwhelming need for God every moment for every provision (of health, of energy, of life, of joy, of love). I realized that at the end of the day, I can try and control my health and my energy by allocating my plans and productivity, but without acknowledging God's role in sustaining my life for another day, I have worked myself out of the opportunity to truly live in the present: creating and reacting to how he is working inside of me.
It was such a challenge to honestly force myself to stay still, lay down, not jump to and fro. The depth of challenge made me realize just how intensely I had been externally moving, operating, and stressing myself out to the point of exhaustion and fatigue. The internal neglect of processing life transitions and work happenings had me starved for a fresh outpouring of rejuvenation. My weeks with Mono were some of the best weeks as I looked within myself to see how to make more margin for restful contemplation and how only a healthy understanding and practice of that would pave the way for intuitive movement.

To me, pre-mono, rest had been the scarce moments between my head dropping on the pillow and falling asleep at the day’s end. Now, rest looks like an unfamiliar friend reminding me that stewarding my body is both rest and work. I am a human, I need both and God has given me both. 

So the only way forward: leaving behind the ambitious plans I had for my body and coming home to how my present body is feeling and the needs it voices. People say listen to your body and learn its language, but my body doesn't operate as quickly and conveniently (input, enter, output) as Google translate. After going months without engaging in dialogue with your body, it takes time to relearn the words it voices to you and respond appropriately. Just like the bird's song - though I may not understand its meaning at first listen, once I begin the mindful practice of listening, I am simply amazed at its ability to vocalize its needs. I truly am fearfully and wonderfully made - my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139). The wonder and curiosity that sparked in my spirit as I began sensing this image-beardedness, reminds me that amidst the struggle for work-rest balance acknowledging my Creator for the creation he has made in me is very good, and honoring it with rest is the pathway to expressing praise to Him (dance being one of the ways I am excited to be in the process of practicing again!).

First off, what do you think about rest? What does rest look like for you? Do you still try and keep a sabbath, or do you find little "sabbath moments" throughout your week? How do you relate your practice of rest with your practice of movement?

Blessings to you as you pack up and prepare for the upcoming move!

Love,
Annie




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Intuitive Movement

Dear Annie,

Thank you so much for your well wishes at the end of your last letter. This past weekend was so sweet (+ bittersweet) and joyous and celebratory and everything a college graduation should be, chock full of good food, final goodbyes, pictures with friends, family, and faculty, and prayers of thankfulness for what these past four years have entailed. I cannot believe you went through all of this a year ago already--seems like just yesterday we were having coffee at the Lucky Llama on the morning of your graduation. Wow!

And just like that life changes already! I am 100% in 'wind-down' mode from the excitement of graduation, the franticness of finals, and the stress of tying up loose ends (ex: training my replacement at work + packing + trying to tell people how much I love and appreciate them). You and I talk pretty regularly about self care and it has been interesting to see how I have already shifted into that mode in the past 48 hours. One of the things I love to do most for self care is walk around my neighborhood's perfect 4.5 mile loop while listening to a new podcast. My absolute favorite is This American Life, but this morning I listened to one called Food Psych by Christy Harrison because one of my favorite food/life/intuitive eating bloggers, Kylie Mitchell from Immaeatthat.com was on one of her shows. Christy's podcast is all about finding true health (emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc.) no matter what size/shape you are, listening to your body's natural instincts when it comes to food, and calling our diet-obsessed culture/society for what it is--disordered! This specific podcast with Kylie focused on her own journey from disordered eating/exercise to becoming a dietitian that helps those suffering from an eating disorder. I mention all of this because 1) I love their work/message and think you would too and 2) because Kylie mentioned something that I'd love to hear your insight on; she talked about how her previous obsession with exercise lead her to focus solely on movement (not 'exercise') that felt good and connected her with her body, not dissociate from it. For her that looked like Yoga! She talked about how at the beginning of this process she stopped all exercise and just laid on her yoga mat with her hands on her belly, really connecting to the sensations of her breath rising and falling and focusing on connecting with and accepting that part of her body.

          

For many years of my life I played a competitive sport, whether it was gymnastics, soccer, or track and field, and sometimes those sports require you to just push through the pain and discomfort, focus harder, and dig deeper. Through my own journey of discovering intuitive eating/movement, it's been interesting to hold those past experiences, my love for goal-setting and persistence in tension with listening to my body and doing what feels good. For Kylie, feel-good-body-movement is what she chooses for her own personal health, but for me, I think there's some sort of balance between doing hard things and really pushing myself (ex: training for a half marathon) and listening to what my body wants/needs. I'm not training for anything and my climbing membership from the SB rock gym is now expired, so it's been fun to think about what's next. I haven't trained for a half marathon in a while, so a new race registration might be in the works soon... :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Does Yoga help you connect with your body like it does for Kylie?
Have you seen a change in how you think about/accept your body since you started practicing Yoga?
What does your ideal intuitive movement look like? Mine is walking + podcast as mentioned above.
Do you find yourself more in one camp or the other (intuitive movement vs. pushing hard for a goal)?

I am SO excited to move to Colorado in 3.5 weeks--it's such a beautiful state with so many opportunities for trying new forms of movement/exercise/activities. I think part of that transition for me will involve way more hiking, climbing, and maybe joining a running club?
I'll keep you posted!

Love you,
Rachel

Sunday, April 30, 2017

After 15+ years as a student, who am I now?

Dear Rachel,

What exciting life changes coming up! While I can't identify with moving to a different state and getting married, I definitely could speak to what my experience was like shifting from a student to a worker and moving from college living back to home.
I encourage you first and foremost to see these transitions as things that God has prepared in advance for you to do and altogether an adventure that He has the strength and power to take you on as you trust in Him. Going into this season of transition with the mindset of hope rather than fear will keep you focused on the good to be found that overcomes your feelings toward the difficulty of life change.

Guard your heart and mind, and constantly wash yourself in truth - this will be your anchor.

I think the perception of many college graduates is a silly "what the heck is life going to be like!" and others have named it "one of the hardest years of my life" due to the complexity of transitioning out of being a student and what that may mean for a person.
However, the good news is, we don't have to endure these transitions alone. And we don't have to accept the social constructs that many before us have made of "post-college" life. We can stand by the truth of God's word and look fearlessly toward the future. He invites us to!
We also have God as a captain and companion for the journey ahead, and lucky for you and me, we have supportive and uplifting parents and friendships. Lean into the people who knew you in your old roles, those who knew you as a student, and those who you have built trustworthy bonds with, as they will be tangible reminders for who you are.

You don't have to be an expert at each new role you've been given - give yourself grace to embrace each perceived 'failure' as learning experiences. 

You aren't supposed to know how to walk when you get out of the womb...you learn to crawl and then walk, and you fall down quite a bit :)
This past year of transition has not been a paved road ahead. There have been many twists and turns in my spiritual walk, my thoughts towards my job and career, and just like you said--my sense of "identity." And it has surely and admittedly been a windy storm of emotions and feelings and anxieties.
Did I do the right thing? (fearfully reflecting on the past) Am I doing the right thing? (the nagging fearful question of the present) Am I headed in the right direction? (fearfully looking ahead)
These have all been questions that fear has driven me to ask myself. But when I remember I am loved first and foremost, that God's banner over me is love, fear can be extinguished in Jesus' name.
I strive to put my value and worth into my job description, into my lifestyle choices, rather than in the One who created me and has called me loved, chosen, blessed, and broken-by His design.
Keep trying to walk, keep falling, and chuckle as you feel God's smirk shining down on you as a parent would on their own infant attempting to walk for the first time.

Keep learning.

Honestly, driving on the freeway to work, with traffic-dreading individuals in shiny metal cylinders can be quite draining and fatiguing on your intellectual spirit of curiosity that so many books and insightful teachers at Westmont gave us. After deadlines and due dates for papers, it truly is up to you to develop your own education or let your curiosity dwindle. I never noticed this until I did-HA. I was bored with myself, bored with my mind, bored with life! Then I would listen to a podcast or read a thought-inducing book on theology (Thank You, Henri Nouwen) and get so stimulated and almost transported back into the Voskuyl Library with my pretty highlighters and glasses. You can be a student your whole life (as you create your own flow as an adult!)



Wow, I had more in me than I anticipated! Much of that was therapeutic processing for me so thanks for being gracious and giving me the space to process. ;)

Okay, so there was a lot of "do this" and "don't fall into this mental trap" in here. I hope you know that this list is not something I have yet succeeded in and/or have even accomplished. Most of these are reminders to myself of the tensions I encounter daily-to choose to fear what I see or to choose to hope in what God promises for me. 

Is there anything that you're particularly nervous for? Excited for? Wanting to try something new? New form of exercise? New way of studying the Bible?
With your job? As Connor's soon-to-be-wife? As a soon-to-be-Coloradan? Living far from home?

Cheers to your final week as a student! May God bless you with wisdom to know His will for your life and patience to give yourself time to learn how to walk in this new, exciting season!

Much love,
Annie

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Life Changes and Identity Formation

Dear Annie,

First of all, how sweet it was to see you this weekend! What a fun and restful time in Riverside--there was laughter and silly jokes yet so many moments of soul-filling conversation. I felt like I finally had the mental space to process some upcoming major life changes and what that means for my identity, worth, and impact in the world.

Student -> Graduate; Californian -> Coloradan; Graduate -> Employee; 'Single' -> Married

I know many of these categories are unique to my life in these next few months, but I think (and hope) the feelings of uncertainty I'm feeling regarding these major life changes are common to the human experience. Don't get me wrong, I'm not uncertain about whether or not I should do all of these things, but it's the uncertainty of what my life will look like 5 months from now that's kind of unsettling. For me, it begs the question, if my life will be so different in 5 months, what will I be like? After four years at the same college in the same city with the same community, life is pretty comfy right now--I know who I am and where I 'fit'. But will those feelings remain when everything around me changes?

It's undeniable that these past four years have forced me to root my identity in Christ more than I have in my entire life, yet recently it's been obvious that I still have so much more growing to do. I've never not been a student, and I've tried really hard to be a good student. However, it's much harder to realize that because of Jesus I've never not been a daughter of the King, and I don't have to try hard to be good at that because he already calls me good (and beloved, adored, powerful, etc.). It's hard to internalize that my identity is already found in Christ, not something I have to search for after all of these life changes are completed. 


Annie, you've gone through some major life changes in the past year--any wisdom or insight on identity formation/acceptance you've learned, whether through experience, scripture, or the counsel of others?

Lord, help us trust that you are who you say you are, and that we are who you say we are because of your Son.

With Love,
Rachel