As I sat down to write this morning, my cute little 4 year old popped his head into the dining room, "Mom, what does a sheep do when he gets dirty?"
"I have no idea."
"He takes a bath! HA HA HA HAHAHAHA!!!"
He is now on repeat with the joke that he made up. This has been our life lately, and it is absolutely amazing. Between binge watching Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and the rad jokes our 4 year old makes up, we have laughed until our guts hurt.
A few years ago my friend Meredith encouraged me to listen to a podcast called Simple by Tsh Oxenreider. At the time I did not know that this one podcast would provide me with such solace and be exactly what I needed to hear in many areas of my life. Over the years I've heard Tsh talk to farmers, priests, writers, friends and travelers. She always kept to the theme of simple.
It was probably 2018 when I decided to do a word for the year instead of a resolution. I used that word for 2 years now, and over time I grew into finding ways to make life exactly that. Maybe simple sounds lazy, but I found it took a lot of practice to learn to say yes and no when I needed to.
Going into 2020 my word is present. I want to be present in each moment. When I'm with a friend, I want to be present in our conversations. I try to block out that time when I can be present; when I'm not being the modern woman juggling too many commitments and deadlines. When I'm with my kids (which is A LOT), I try to truly invest in their today. This week the weather was perfect, so we laid on the trampoline and ate popsicles. Not every day is as relaxing, but I find when I am present in each moment of the day I can find so much more joy in the everydayness of life. When I'm with my husband, I try to put my phone away and really know about his day. And when I'm with myself, I blast my podcasts or Walker Hayes and go to town cleaning house or writing or whatever I need to do. Sometimes that is fun. Sometimes it is housework. Sometimes it is simply necessary.
This is taking practice--with my friends, my kids, my husband, church, Bible study, phone conversations. It is not something I am good at naturally, so the two weeks I've been purposely embracing this word I have found it takes work.
Being present in what I'm doing in this moment means saying no to other moments. Last week life got hectic. We had choir kids from Uganda for a couple nights, baseball camp, mid-week services, our first small group, school and Bible study starting back up. I had to choose what to say yes to every moment of those days. Everything was fun, but everything would have killed me. When the week was over, I realized I enjoyed so much of the week because I was present in what I said yes to. Had I said yes to everything, I don't think I would have enjoyed any of it as much.
So I took this lesson and contemplated this week. When do I say yes and no? I live with anxiety and one thing I've learned about myself is that when I say yes to everything, I am not doing well. I tend to pile on commitments almost as if it will distract me from the anxiety of any moment because I have too many moments to consider.
I also know for me personally I need to write. My husband loves rocks; he is incredible at his job. My mom loves to work outside, and their farm is immaculate. My sister is an amazing educator, and she shines at work. What does that look like for me, a stay at home mom still in her pajamas at 11:00? What can I say yes to for myself so that I care for my children yet function as a complete human? For me it is to write.
Recently I signed a contract to write for a regional magazine. I'm enjoying this! It is quite fun to write a topic that someone assigned to me--a topic I didn't have to create. However, I am still trying to squeeze in my personal writing. I need that part of me that longs to create with words. This fall I began listening to Shawn Smucker and his wife Maile share on their new podcast "The Stories Between Us." Much of what Maile shares resonates with me, and I have found encouragement to sit down and write and not feel guilty. (If my kids were hungry or not clothed, I might feel guilty. But right now I sent them to the playroom and allowed them to learn to play by themselves and I carved out time for me and the words that come out.)
Both through experience and listening to Maile, I have learned I don't have to sign contracts or sell my soul to any publication to be a writer. To create. I can be that independently, and I'm still as much a writer if my six chapters of my novel never become thirty and get inked in black and white on a shelf at Barnes and Noble. That would....oh, EXCITING! But that wouldn't make my writing more real for me.
So today I said no to Bible study. I could tell I needed to be home, and I know the kids need it if I'm feeling it too. I said no to lunch out with the girls and listening to an awesome women's Bible teacher. While it would have been a blast, I would have paid for it all afternoon. And I said yes to my kids and watched them play Mario Kart. I said yes to myself and made a white chocolate mocha (maybe 2) and wrote a blog post. I said yes to a healthy lunch at home with my husband. It is okay to say no. But it is okay to say yes too.