Today, I am 42. Which frankly, with a two year old underfoot, feels pretty much exactly like 32 did. But, as I was thinking on this around 5:30 am when my body was trying to convince me it was 6:30 am (thank you, Time Change), I couldn't help thinking of some of the things that are really working for me at this point in my life that I didn't have 10 years ago. In no particular order, here's what I thought of:
1. Sabbath. Without question, the regular practice of Sabbath taking has changed my life. Collectively, as a family, we have a day that we treat with gentleness and affection. We rest. We protect it. Sometimes it's still hard to pump the breaks when all the other days are so full, but the benefits of declaring in faith, "The world can go on without my help for a few hours" is one of the most important things I do. I've written about Sabbath on my blog several times: Here
2. Stitchfix. Every other month, a get a box of 5 clothing items. Every pair of jeans they have ever sent me fit. If that isn't an advertisement, I don't know what is. Knowing what to wear is confusing and overwhelming at times. Caring for other human beings really cuts into luxurious shopping time. Putting too much pressure on my clothes to express my identity has always been a real problem for me. For those reasons, I'm grateful for this service. It's not always perfect. Sometimes, you get a new stylist and it doesn't work as well. But all in all, this is a time-saver and a confidence-boost for me. Click here if you want to try it.
3. Sulphate Free Shampoo. My friend Natalie told me about this. I was so tired of washing my hair every day and feeling so greasy and gross if I didn't. This is just straight up time back on my clock that is otherwise wasted. Read more: Here.
4. The Enneagram. The Enneagram is an ancient personality tool that has been utilized by various faith traditions for thousands of years, passed on to subsequent generations via oral tradition. In the 1970s, it was written down in a book forms and has become popular again recently as we look to the past to teach us more about the future. I've been aware of the Enneagram for about 5 years now, but recently I read and taught a new book that was written by Ian Crohn and Suzanne Stabile called The Road Back to You. They have a podcast that is a great resource as well. The reason the Enneagram is different from other personality tools is that it is not stationary. Your personality is affected by stress and seasons of growth, and this tools helps you to identify ways to support that growth and health and how to manage your stress better. I have used it extensively in parenting and in my marriage in the past few months and it has given me some confidence in decision-making and helping to understand the complexities of the world and the people in it, especially during this election cycle. The Enneagram helps you to find compassion for others who are very different from you because it helps you to recognize how we all have different basic fears that are driving us. You can take an introductory test here.
5. Therapy. We see a therapist once a month. At first we went for an acute problem, but it is now a safe place for us to check in and get some care for our souls. Together, Robb and I care for a lot of people and problems. It's too much sometimes. I am so grateful for a trusted counselor that helps us keep things from building up into emotional messes. Our therapist is not a "Christian counselor." For us, that was very important. It's too easy to slip into church-y talk and expectations and hide behind that language instead of dealing with real issues. We firmly believe that all truth is God's truth, so we talk about regular things without throwing Christian language over it to somehow baptize our experiences. I'm also super leery of applying spiritual practices to psychological problems. I've seen too much disaster result from that. So bring on the psychological theories and the new language it has given us to talk through our experiences.
6. My Tribe. Like no other time in my life, I lean into the strength my friends give me. They are a sounding board, a mirror, and a safe place like no other. We utilize the technology of private Facebook groups to create the intimacy that is not possible in the larger format of Facebook. I downloaded the free GROUPS app on my iphone and have the settings modulated to allow my closest tribe to access my time and attention whenever there is a need, and to block out all other distractions until I'm ready to interact with them. Not every person in your life deserves access to your time and attention at the same volume. I also meet once a week for coffee with my people at a local coffee shop. That time is sacred time and I am sad about how many years went by without this meaningful time of connection. I'd be lost without it now.
7. Yoga. This has become a healthy expression of faith and humility for me. I still need to lose baby-weight from two years ago, but in the last two months of doing yoga at least 3 times a week, I was able to get into my pre-pregnancy jeans. There is something about it that helps me to simply feel better. I crave better food and I remember to breathe and feel less anxious. I follow a Youtube channel which I can access on my phone or laptop wherever and whenever I want to. I try to get my time in on the mat before I start my days. Check out Yoga with Adriene Here.
8. Susan's. Weekly dates are important, but with four kids and some crazy schedules, a Friday night dress-up date isn't always realistic. What works for us is Saturday mornings at Susan's Restaurant. Having things you can count on takes the pressure off in so many ways. You can count on good coffee. You can count on amazing pie. You can count on excellent service. You can count on the time together to talk about all the things that need to be talked about.
9. The Divine Hours. It's been several years now since I first heard about the spiritual discipline of the Daily Office. This is a series of set hours of prayer that the church has practiced for thousands of years. I didn't not grow up in a Liturgical tradition, but as an adult, I have come to love the hours and seasons of the church calendar. If the year is made up of seasons, the days are made up of hours, and I begin each day with a moment of liturgy utilizing Phyllis Tickle's books, The Divine Hours. I admit that being faithful to mid-day, evening and compline prayers is still something I aspire to, but at the very least, I am committed to a practice of reading and prayer before I pick up my phone to check email. It helps me orient my days and my life according to what I really believe.
10. Getting older. I know the old joke...the only thing worse than getting older is the alternative. But seriously, I think that like a lot of women, I spent a good chunk of my life feeling insecure, doubting myself, fretting about my choices, waiting for permission, being too concerned about what people think, and just generally missing out. That ole Proverbs 31 woman used to bug me. But when I read, "She is clothed with dignity and strength; She laughs at the future." I know I'm on the right track. I never wanted to be the kind of woman who grew older by shrinking up into a tiny ball of grumpy fear. I'm looking at some major things right now. Potty training. Launching a kid to college. Transitioning into a new job. Navigating a weird stage in marriage. And you know what? I'm up of for it. If I can do what I did in the past, I grow large enough to handle all the next things. There is a confidence at this age that is better than any age-defying, color concealing, tummy tucking product that could ever be invented.
So that's my 10 things that are working for me right now. Take whatever works for you!