Sunday, October 20, 2013

Do We Meet Here?

I hardly recognize the woman who sat down to write this out.  At least not until about two thirds through...then I start to see myself.  But, just like this post took some time to write, it's taking me some time to see it. Furthermore, daring to tap the "publish" command has me a little in knots.  As my proof reader puts it, "This sure is a lot about you." (Thank you firstborn farmgirl for your caution and insight). She's right on.  I dare to post knowing that although I'm talking about me, perhaps what I have to offer meets you where you are, and we see into each other in humility and love.

For perhaps ALL of my growing up years, and maybe most of my adult years I've been one to see and seize opportunities.  Search out possibilities.  Look for chances. I usually wake most mornings with fresh hope, optimism, and am ready to take on the day.  (After some deep dark cups of coffee and quiet time that is...)

My training, and in many ways my early experiences, was the opposite.  My parents come to life aware of boundaries, respectful of limits, and cautious.
Furthermore, we seriously depart in the coffee department.  They're more of the tea type. I digress.
Regardless of what's in my (or their) morning mug, my view of my origins is shaped by what I remember as tight close fences around life, growth, and opportunity.

Can you imagine the differences of perspective, disagreements, conflicts, and issues presented by my teen years?  Oh. My.

I was always stretching for the next thing.
Eager and waiting for the another door to open, ready to walk through.
A rejector of self imposed limits, I chafed at the many things I was told I couldn't do.

I haven't changed that much.

Until recently.

I'm hard up against needing to respect limits.
Only a little fuel remains with still many miles to travel.
Often putting one foot in front of the other, with (literally), just enough oxygen for the next step.
In circumstances that I cannot influence that have profound influence on me.

Much of this influence is very good, wildly, wonderful parts of life.
-Adult sons living at home getting ready to make their own way.
-A house full of teens.
-Youngsters still underfoot.
-Barns and pastures full.
-Renovations of this old farm slowly, and in fits and spurts, progressing.
-Gardens STILL burgeoning.
-An excellent beginning to our homeschool year and many confirmations that our affiliation with Classical Conversations is timely and perfect for us.
-Tutoring in Classical Conversations has awakened my brain and I'm enjoying teaching again.
-The ups and downs of necessary restoration (and sometimes backsliding) of key relationships requires time and commitment, but we are hanging on for our very lives and praying for a good yield.

You see?
It is the good things that have created limits.
And, I still chafe.
Conflict arrives.

Mostly it visits me.
(Sometimes others when I'm selfish and careless.)

This time, and maybe I'm lucky, is the first time that I've not had wiggle room to do anything - I can't change it up.  I'm powerless to extend boundaries or make more space. Whether the causes are negative or positive, I'm left with no choice, except to yield.

I'm having to say "no".
To extra activity.
To selfish pursuits.
To the unnecessary.
To the self gratifying things I love to fill up on.
And, this is the one that has me in a dither, "no" to worthwhile good things too.

And "no", although plenty uncomfortable all by itself, has opened the path for other more pointed discomforts.

Like the realization that I continue to crave (idolize?) recognition and so can all too easily get busy with things that build me up, and even though sincere love and service is involved, there's always a little slice of that pie just for me.

Or, the smack dab pressed up understanding that I'm creeping daily up on a substantial milestone birthday.  It's not 30.  It's not 40. Been there, done both of those.  It'll be a couple of years yet, and although I'm as fit and as strong as I've ever been, I need more sleep, take more time to weigh decisions, move more slowly. Giving myself over to slower means I've got to wrangle with my paradigms and our culture's penalties for aging.  I can no longer meet my "normal" production marks, which puts my comfortable habit of measuring myself by performance goals in a stranglehold.

Without performance, shockingly, I find myself insecure about appearance.  Yes, there's liberty, attractiveness, and even relief in embracing a kind of beauty that can't be bought, that comes from the gift of years. But, when the gray hairs make the curls a crown, I find myself wondering.  When the pretty has faded all away, when what I look like is less and less of an issue, will what I am be enough?

Identity as a writer, mother, wife, farmer, friend, teacher, Christ follower - every role- has felt the bright glare of introspection.  The light has revealed many pure and good things.  Excellent and praiseworthy pursuits populate the chapters of my life.  Contrarily, so has bitterness, lack of courage, failure to love and forgive - common to all, but personal to me, the population of these behaviors and characteristics has come to light and I can't just breeze right past them.

Gulp. I could go on and on.
And, in fact, in the daily-ness of life I have.
It can produce at first, a frightening kind of insanity, as going round and round with oneself only leads one to, ahem, the same old same old staring back from the looking glass.
Then, the fright shifts, because whereas the above cycle used to spur me on, it's the new normal.

I wrestle with it all.

When I'm spent, I come to this:

Does there come a season when all the effort, stretching, reaching, leaping through open doors shifts to cultivating, maintaining, and then harvesting what for so many years has been planted as new growth?

I'm beginning to think so.
Little quiet parts of my memory speak into this space.
I'm reminded that so many times before I've been ushered into something or someplace new and although I knew it was coming, once I was "there", initially I was ill equipped to understand and respond to the newness of the experience.
Even if I'd prepared.

Like laboring and delivering a baby.
I'd read books, watched (back then) videos, talked to doctors and nurses, and consulted my mom.
But, until I pushed head, shoulders, body, feet, delivered life through that burning portal I understood not what was my due.
And, each time I learned, lost, and gained something new.
Something that whether I perceived it or not made me ready for the season I was (am) in and what I was (am) to do and be.

So all this good is good enough.
And the faults are not too many.
And the "no" along with its limits brings more courage, humility, peace, and love.
Beautifully, limits produce less fear, stress, self seeking, and harm.

Not because I say it is so.
No, my own insight, strength, experience is not nearly enough to reach into and equip for the contrast of what is life right now- the fullness and its limits.

What then, to return to the earlier metaphor in my question, cultivates, maintains, and brings the harvest?

Gratitude and grace.
Far better than "good enough", these companions, concurrently cultivated and given as unmerited gifts, shine into this time with greater brilliance than introspection.
Their purpose and redeeming power overcomes not only the true cost of the mistakes that have been revealed in the hours of self absorption, but the weight of guilt is lifted.

By grace I can be grateful.
Through gratitude I learn to receive and give grace.
Grateful for grace I don't deserve, I cultivate deeper gratitude and receive richer grace.
All gifts.
All grace.

More than enough.


Edited to add:
Oh, how deeply I have struggled with failure to write regularly.  I had "told" myself that I would get it together enough to participate in The Nester's 31 Days series this year, and if I did only one thing well as a writer in 2013, that would be "it". 
Well, you know the outcome of that.  And I've participated in self loathing and condemnation.  

Thank goodness, (see- a tiny bit of gratitude) for good friends, Holy Spirit counsel, God's beautiful word The Bible, and wild grace.  They've had a greater grip on me than any unprofitable thinking.

So, settling into limits, I've not been writing.  But I have been reading. And I wonder if you'll be as blessed, challenged, changed, and loved as I've been when you click over to Edie's and Ruth's blogs and join in their journey during October's 31 Days blogosphere event?

Come back and tell me won't you, how you're being changed and restored by weighing more and less in your life, and daring to balance the scales?

And this- a little breath of thanks for reading this far.  So many words.  I have so many and so few opportunities to release them.  How you gift me to read to this very last mark. 

(Thanks to @jbkcyclist for sharing iPhone instagram photos for use on Liberty Farm Chronicles)