The Swirling Storm in my Head.

swirlingmindI walked to the bus stop this morning and felt that suddenly I could breathe again. The last few days have been HOT. Heat indexes in the 100’s and humidity that leaves you dripping and struggling to breathe. But this morning the temperature finally broke a little bit. It’s still hot, but it was raining just a tiny bit and cloudy. It was as if the weather had been holding in stress and emotions until something broke and she softly cried this morning as she released a bit of the tension she’s been holding.

I feel like my mood has mirrored the same transition these last two weeks. I jumped in to summer head first. You would have thought I would have learned from last year’s experience that I cannot be superwoman, at least not for very long. But somehow when all my kids are home, instead of settling into a more relaxed outlook on life, I find myself trying to do everything. I will feed everyone! I will keep the house clean! I will spend quality time with each kid! I can do this!

Maybe it is because I know that summer is hard. I go into it full of energy, pouring myself in because I know that it will take all of me to get through it. This summer has been better than last summer. Last summer, John’s depression was so heavy that I could feel it when I walked into a room where he was. Last summer, my purpose in doing everything was to try to remove some of the burden from him. Last summer, I crashed. All I accomplished was to make myself sick.

So, I know that I need to take it easy. Do only what is reasonable and choose those things that I need to let go of. I need to demand time for myself in each week. I need to find a rhythm. And I will.

But in the midst of this beginning of summer, in the midst of my struggle to find what I can and cannot handle, there was something else just under the surface, something I didn’t even realize was affecting me. As the heat built outside, the same tension built in me until I woke one morning at 4am. It started as a weird uncomfortable dream. One I don’t even remember the details of, but when I woke the emotions and feelings I’d been ignoring were all there, right in the front of my mind as if they had bubbled up from deep within me, finally breaking through to the surface.

It was, unfortunately, not one of the moments when suddenly all the pieces come together and the solution feels obvious. No, on the contrary, I am sitting in the middle of whirling and competing desires, needs, and circumstances and I have no idea how they are all going to fall into place. But it is time that I notice how much those swirling items are affecting me, how much attention they do need. I cannot ignore them, because there are other people in my family that also need to process this stuff and I need to be awake so we can do it together.

This will get really long if I try to explain all the moving parts, but they all have to do with the impending reality of our near future. In less than a year, we will no longer be a seminary family. John will graduate and we will move on to the next step in life. But, for not the first time in life, that next step feels very unclear. There feels like there are so many competing voices in this decision. There’s the desire of the bishop of Arkansas that we should return there. There’s the desire of my husband to not return to AR, based on some very strong practical and emotional reasons. There’s the aching heart of my teenage daughter who has tearfully requested that we stay here and let her finish her high school career with these friends she’s made here. There’s my job that I love, and also my dreams for the future. There’s the whole family’s strong desire to settle down, find a place that we can call home. There’s the uncertainty of the state of our country, an unsettledness that has us constantly discussing the possibility of moving outside these borders. There’s the very real practicality of making sure we generate an income large enough to support our family. As much as we don’t like making our decisions based on money, we do require a base level to survive and a slightly higher level to thrive.

And I’m in the middle of it all. I can see the value in each of the possible directions we head. I can see a place for myself and my dreams in each of them. None of them precludes my hopes for the future. I’m thankful for that. But each of the choices means something different for the mental and emotional health of one or more members of this family. Each choice may affect opportunities for the future for one or more members of this family. And I care about each member of this family. So much that it hurts.

My 4am awakening to the reality of the presence of all this surrounding me didn’t solve anything. But it started a conversation. And that conversation will lead to more conversations. And hopefully eventually a choice will be made. And I hope and pray that whatever that choice is will move us forward to a place of health and peace. I may feel helpless right now, but I do not feel hopeless.

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Finding Home.

We’ve been in Alexandria now for 2 weeks. As John has mentioned a couple times, the next three years will mark the longest we’ve been in one house since we sold our house in Siloam about 6 years ago. Since then we’ve moved from house to house in NWA, then to Germany and back again, and now to Alexandria.If all goes as planned, we’ll be in Alexandria longer than we were in Germany, even longer than we attended Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam. It seems like such a long time in many ways, yet in others, very short.

IMG_4279Knowing this sense of a possible security of place for the next three years has meant that I have looked forward to settling in, making this place our home. It means buying furniture and decorating to our taste instead of living with whatever we happen to be given. But unfortunately, we still have at least 4 months before that happens. Right now we are house-sitting for fellow seminarians who are gone for the summer. We are so so thankful for the provision of their house. We love living here, but it does mean that most of our stuff sits in storage waiting for us to have our own space to put it. At the beginning of August we will move on campus. But because the family housing won’t be completed by then, we will be put in some sort of temporary housing until Fall break, when they hope the apartments will be done and everyone can move into their own place. So again, we will make do, live temporarily, get by without settling in.

IMG_4261We should be good at living this way by  now, but I feel like what happens, what has been happening for the last several years, is that we never truly live life the way we want because it is too easy to say: “We’ll make those changes, live the way we want to once we are in our own place.” When living in constant transition, you end up putting off lots of important things because it is easier. Perhaps this unexpected change in plans is a chance for me to practice living the way I want no matter how stable I feel. After all, even the 3 years in seminary is still a transitionary phase. If I want to live intentionally this 3 years, why do I feel I have to wait until my house is semi-permanent? That may be helpful, but I think perhaps I’m just making excuses if I can’t start making some changes now.

At the same time though, I want to give myself and my family lots of grace. Not only are we living in a temporary physical home, we are learning a new balance of work and living. We have never before had a time when I was working as much as I am now. We have never before had to figure out how to balance running the household to the extent we are now. When I get frustrated about how it’s going, John reminds me that it has only been 2 weeks. “This will take time to figure out,” he says. And he’s right.

In general it is going well, my main frustrations focus around the grief of letting go. Despite the fact that there are lot of household care things that I don’t enjoy and gladly would share with John, there are others that I have grown accustomed to being in charge of and that I am struggling to let go. The biggest of those being cooking, grocery shopping, and planning meals. I still do some, but I’m not home for several meals each week, so we are trying to figure out how to work it out with two of us shopping, two of us making meals, and two of us trying to live within a single budget. And of course it is all complicated by trying to learn to shop in an area with a much higher cost of living than Siloam Springs. What it will come down to is lots of communication. And some of those conversations will be hard, because if John and I have one thing we tend to “fight” over, it is meal planning. I know, that comes as a surprise, doesn’t it? But it’s an emotional area for both of us and we have different ideas of how to approach things.

So, I have come to the conclusion that this time of temporary housing will be a time of exploring what I want home to look like. I will take the time I would have been using to set up my house to explore my new place in my family, to sort out the balance of house management, to think through what living intentionally looks like, and to process a few of the parenting and lifestyle things John and I have been working towards changing. In short, I will take this time to set up our real home, the home that moves with us no matter where we go.

6 Week Countdown.

appleblossomsIn the last couple of weeks lots of things have fallen into place for our move to Alexandria. I got a job! And it’s my dream job. I’ll be working at a brand new shop in Old Town Alexandria called Stitch Sew Shop. And I’ll be starting at the beginning of June! Yikes!

Because I was asked to arrive early summer for my job, we needed to find temporary housing over the summer as the seminary housing will not be available until August 1. Thankfully we found another seminary family that is leaving for the summer and offered their apartment for subletting. So, for two months we’ll be cramming into a two bedroom townhouse. It is right beside the long system of trails that runs along the water though, so I imagine there will be lots of walks and bike rides in our future.

Over the summer John will be primary caregiver for the kids while I’m at work. I’ll be starting at about 30 hours a week. He hopes to use some of the morning hours before I go to work to write and finish up any freelance jobs he still has. On my days off we will hopefully find time to explore the area and take advantage of John’s slow schedule, since it will be the last summer in a while that he will have this much time.

The advantages of moving early to the area means that we can hopefully start to find a rhythm to our life before John and the kids start school. We can learn what things we like to do in the area for outings. This transition is a huge change for us. For the first time in our married life I will be the one going to work. But that doesn’t mean John will be home all the time as he will also be going to school full-time. So it means finding a pattern to life that still protects our family relationships. Pray for us as we navigate this new stage of life. Pray for the kids that they will transition well. Pray for me as I learn what it is like to spend a good portion of my week at work and figure out the balance of work and household and family. Pray for John that he will find healthy ways to study, learn and grow in the midst of also taking charge of more of the home responsibilities. We are excited about the upcoming changes, but also realize that there is a lot of adjustment that will be happening and it won’t always be comfortable or easy.

We don’t have an exact date yet, but we plan to begin our 2 day journey to Alexandria sometime between May 28 and May 30. The next 6 weeks will be full of good-byes, getting rid of things, and packing. I’m sure there will also be the full range of emotions running through our house every day. Through the tears, anxiety, and excitement we hope to finish our time here well and begin a new chapter with energy and strength.

Transition.

The following blog post was written a little over a year ago. It is written in a question/answer format listing some of the things I wanted to share even though most people weren’t asking. I showed it to John and he wasn’t sure about me posting it, specifically the information in the last question. Looking back now I think he just wanted to protect me or maybe he really didn’t care, and it was just my own inward fear that I was projecting on to his unclear response. Whatever it was, I abandoned the post. Now as I think back over the loneliness of the last year when I longed for some of these questions to be asked, I wonder if part of that isn’t my fault because I was quiet about a lot of this, and by being quiet I was giving others the permission to be quiet too. (Side note: since this was written over a year ago, my views have continued to evolve, especially to the last question. So, I’m sharing this as is to show a snapshot of my transition, but remember, it is just one piece. I’ll post a follow up blog soon that shares a little more current information on these topics.)P1020953

It’s been over 5 months since we moved back to Arkansas from Germany. I’ve been asked more times than I can count how transitioning back is going. In general, we weren’t gone long enough or in a culture that was different enough for this to be terribly hard. We are back with lifelong friends and family. We’ve adjusted to American expenses and culture fairly easily.

But there has been another transition that they aren’t asking about, but in reality has been a much bigger deal. And that is our transition to another church. Both John and I had attended our home church here in Siloam Springs since we were kids. They are our family. They’ve supported us both financially and emotionally through so much in our lives, not just the last two years. But in our exploration of our faith, our calling, and our spiritual lives, we had begun to realize even before we left Germany that we felt drawn to a different church tradition than what we’d been raised in. Well, to be perfectly honest, John was feeling the strongest draw, and I was intrigued and willing to follow.

So, after being back for a couple months we made the transition to the local Episcopal church here. We had tried an Anglican church in Switzerland, so we were already familiar with this tradition and were excited about both the denomination and this specific church.

And so, I am now going to answer the questions that have not been asked of me nearly as often, partly because we purposefully didn’t want to make a big deal about this. But I know that some people may wonder, and I never want people to feel that this is a big secret or an unmentionable topic. I hope this helps to begin a conversation with those who are curious.

Question 1: How has your transition to a new church gone?
Answer: Very good. We are both in love with the liturgical, formal style of the church service and are very comfortable with the teaching in this particular church. We are finding a new sense of excitement at finding ways to integrate into this community and it has been a good way for us to start our “new” life back here in Arkansas.

Question 2: Do you miss your old church?
Answer: Absolutely! I miss seeing many of my closest friends on a weekly basis. Sometimes it feels lonely as I begin new friendships where I am at and miss times of fellowship with those whom I know more deeply. I’m still struggling to find the balance in juggling these two pieces of my life and finding where they both fit.

Question 3: Why did you choose the Episcopal Church?
Answer: There’s a lot that went into this decision. What started as an attraction to the Anglican communion quickly became the knowledge that this was the place where we fit best. The tradition and liturgy of the church feed us in so many ways. I had already been feeling the desire to make the spiritual more a part of our daily life with our kids, especially after our experience seeing so many religious holidays observed in Germany. A liturgical tradition based on a church calendar really helps us towards that goal. The different way of looking at things like Eucharist (or communion), baptism, and the Bible have been stretching for me, but also freeing. One example: I have never enjoyed taking communion, even as a child. Because of my personality I worry a lot about getting things right. I am always worried that I am not “right with God” when I go to “take” the bread and cup. In our new church, Eucharist is celebrated each Sunday (and Wednesdays too if you want to). So I had to face this fear fairly quickly. But oddly enough, a slight change in the wording and attitude of this practice was enough to help me realize that I just had it wrong all along. This is a celebration. It isn’t about my worthiness, but about God’s gift. When I go up I do not “take,” but rather “receive” with my hands open. My voice joins others as we audibly remember the death of Jesus, but also his life in us. In the past if I knew that it was a communion Sunday, I had a feeling of dread settle in my stomach and I know I did not necessarily “want” to go to church on those days. Now, every Sunday I am excited to go to church. There is no place I would rather be, and it is not just because of the fellowship (which is what always drew me to church before), but because I truly want to worship and be a part of the service. Now, I want to make it very clear that I am not saying that this doesn’t happen in other church traditions. I hope that everyone can find that place where that is how they feel about worship. For us, this is that place.
I haven’t covered all the reasons why we chose this church, partly because many of those reasons are specifically John’s. I won’t go into all his reasons, I’ll let him do that, but it means the world to me that he feels as strongly as I do about being in worship. John goes every Sunday (sometimes to both services) and on Wednesdays too. He’s already been trained to do some of the positions of service as well, and he LOVES it, robes and all. After all the questions, searching, and uncertainty over the last two years, it is nice to have found a place of peace for him.

Question 4: What do your kids think about this?
Answer: Our kids have learned a lot of flexibility over the last two years. That’s one advantage of dragging them across the world. Elise was the only one who was really concerned, and she’s been happy since we’ve been attending. She seems to take things in stride and even though she may not enjoy the service every day, she does enjoy her Sunday school class (even when she’s the only one there.) As a plus, she really likes being called an Episcopalian because it sounds cool. 🙂 The boys love their respective programs and tolerate the service, though they’ve been happier since we started letting them participate in Eucharist.

Question 5: What does this change in your everyday lives?
Answer: It would be impossible to list all the ways this affects our everyday lives. We are learning and growing in many ways that are positively affected by our church. We also meet once a week for dinner and discussion with a small group from the church. And even though it isn’t required we do daily offices of prayer each day as a family.

Question 6: What about the homosexuality issue?
Answer: Ok, this is a big question. And it is almost never addressed, except in roundabout ways, even though it seems to be the one issue that comes to mind most often when people think of the Episcopal church. First of all, the Anglican tradition is happy with some issues being unresolved. Unity in diversity is highly valued. So those in the church can fall on different sides of this issue and that is ok. But, obviously it does seem like there is a fairly high percentage of Episcopalians that are ok with homosexuality and obviously it is not an issue that bars someone from serving in a position of authority. And I understand that that isn’t ok with many people. There are many good arguments from the Bible that condemn homosexuality. But did you know that there are also good arguments using the Bible that bring the traditional conservative view into question? I have not researched them (John has been studying this a lot lately though, so I hear some of the arguments from him), so I will not go into either side here. The main thing I want to say here is that my view is currently shifting. I am not sure where I will end up on this issue, but I want to approach it humbly and carefully. I have not been personally affected by this issue, and so I do not feel I have the right to judge or condemn or even speak strongly about it. Christians have been terribly wrong about things before, and my current position is one of an open mind. I have always avoided this issue in the past, because it has made me terribly uncomfortable. I can’t let that keep me from giving it a fair hearing. I have not done that. I am starting that process now.

The Seminary Visit

vtsThis last weekend, John and I got to fly off all by ourselves to the East Coast to visit Virginia Theological Seminary. It felt like such a culmination of the last two years’ worth of hopes and dreams and plans, but I know that I haven’t shared a lot of those things on here, so let me back up a bit and explain a bit of the process we’ve gone through to get to this point. I should add that this blog is going to be very on the surface, not very deep at all. It would take too long to go into all the underlying decisions, growth, and change that happened to bring us to this point, but hopefully I will start touching on some of that in later blog posts. But, for now, let me give you the framework we’ve been functioning inside of for quite awhile now.

As many of you know, though possibly some of you don’t know, our family has been attending an Episcopal church for the last year and a half. The Episcopal church is part of the larger Anglican Communion, which includes such churches as the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Anglican Church in Canada, among many others depending on the part of the world. Within each of these larger churches there are Dioceses, each run by a bishop, and under the dioceses there are parishes, which are led by parish priests. There’s some interesting history and philosophy within the Anglican tradition that is part of why we chose to continue on our ministry journey within this framework, but I can share more of those details later.

We decided to begin attending the Episcopal church before we got back to the US, having already attended an Anglican church in Switzerland. We returned to the States in June, and a few months later, in the fall, we began attending our local parish, Grace Episcopal church in Siloam Springs. By the end of the year, both John and I had been confirmed, which means we became official members of the Episcopal church.

Even though it was at first a surprise to both John and I that he might be interested in pursuing ordained ministry in the church, after months of interest and thoughtful processing (by ourselves and with our local priest), John began the official process of pursuing ordination. In this tradition, this means that he first has to gain permission from the bishop to began a process of discernment. This he had by the end of year (2014) making him an “aspirant,” or someone aspiring to be ordained in ministry in the Episcopal Church. In January he began monthly meetings with a local discernment committee, made up of both people within our parish and also in our larger community outside of the parish. Discernement was not easy, it was a painful process, partly because it was not just about interviewing John to see if they (the committee) approved of him for a candidate, but it was more about asking hard questions so that John himself could discover if he felt that this was his calling and a good fit. Discovering yourself is harder than allowing other people to decide what they think about you. The process was almost a whole year long, and there were definitely points in that process where I thought John would say no to moving on to the next step. There was a lot of growing happening for both of us during that year, but again, that will have to wait for another post.

By the end of the year (2015), John felt pretty confident that this was his call and the committee felt confident in recommending him for ordination. We were ready for the next step, which was to travel down to Little Rock and interview with the Commission on Ministry for the diocese of Arkansas. We had that interview on Feb 1, 2016. This committee then sent their recommendation to the bishop and a few days later we held in our hands a letter stating that John had been granted postulancy, meaning he is approved to attend seminary with the intent of becoming an ordained Episcopal priest. There are still more checkpoints on the road, but this really is the most confident we’ve felt in our future plans for at least two years, if not more.

chapelOur top choice for seminary of the ones recommended by our bishop is Virginia Theological Seminary, which is located in Alexandria, VA, just across the river from Washington, D.C. The seminary encourages visiting as part of their application process, so we attended their Spring visit event last weekend. Along with quite a few other postulants we toured the campus, ate meals with existing students, attended several different types of worship services in the school chapel, and sat in many informational meetings. It was amazing how much information was packed into two days. We felt very well informed by the end of the weekend, and also very excited about the possibility of John being a student there.

There were several things that really made this location feel right. I’ll concentrate on a few of the ones that really spoke to me, as a potential seminarian spouse. One, there is an intentionality among the students and faculty to build a supportive community on campus. Currently, all faculty and most single students live on campus. The seminary is in the process of building more housing so that married students and families will also be able to join the campus community, so there is a good chance we will be able to live right on campus with everyone else. But more than just location, there are times built in the schedule for shared meals, small groups, and worshipping together that allow people to connect well within the group during the three years you are attending the school.

Secondly, there is a recognition of the needs of the supporting partners in the seminarian’s life and an attempt to meet those needs in practical ways. There is a group for partners and spouses called SPIRIT (Significants Participating In Really Interesting Things). This group provides practical and emotional support for others in the group, as well as plans fun events and outings. It’s comforting to know that there is a group already in place of people who will understand my unique challenges and needs during this transition.

Thirdly, the schools in the area are wonderful. Especially the elementary school, which every parent I talked to raved about. It is also within walking distance of the seminary. The middle school is bigger and further away and I don’t have as much information on that, but I’ve also got a couple private school options to look into too in case the public school is not a good fit for Elise. Dietrich also will have access to an amazing montessori-type preschool right on campus if I’m able to get a part-time job as I hope.

oldtownFourthly, the area itself is beautiful, family friendly, and allows for all sorts of amazing experiences. We didn’t venture all the way to D.C. since we figured there’d be plenty of opportunity to do that if we live there, but we did go down by bus into Old Town Alexandria, which is beautiful. If I had my choice, I would find a job in one of the crafting shops on the main street in Old Town, but there are options further out as well.

There are still tons of scary things like the fact that this will be hard work for both and John and I for three years. And the fact that no matter how much we may love it there, after three years we are done and will need to say good-bye to people we’ve come to love. And the fact that at least two of my kids are dealing with the grieving process of another move and are not terribly happy about it. And the fact that we will all have to find where we fit in a community that will be brand new to us, especially since the Episcopal community itself is still new to us. And the fact that . . . Well, I could go on, but I think it is probably healthy that there are scary things in this process as well as exciting ones.

So, next steps for us? We are now in another waiting period (hopefully a short one) until the seminary gets back to us on whether or not John has been accepted. Then shortly after that letter we will also hopefully get a letter from the financial aid department letting us know how much financial aid they are able to award us. Hopefully somewhere in there we’ll also get confirmation on housing. Assuming those are all positive, we’d then enter another waiting period, though this one would be full of the practical issues of getting ready for a cross-country move. The actual move would most likely happen sometime in July or August since classes for Juniors (first year students) start in August.

Learning to be.

IMG_3407I had written a blog post quite a few weeks ago that was meant to sort of be an update to the one I wrote about starting my job. So many things have happened since then that my schedule looks so different than it did when I wrote that blog. But the things I was learning then are still impacting my life now. When I started my job I was working two days a week and there was so much positive that came with that, it was great. But there was also a lot of balance to figure out in the rest of my life and that wasn’t always easy. It did mean John and I had some hard, and good, discussions about balancing responsibilities. And it did mean that I had to start thinking seriously about something he had told me when I first wrote that blog post about the job, the one that was so full of hopes of this fixing most of what was broken in my days.

His critique? It was that I had underestimated the need in my life to just rest, to just be. Time when nothing is getting accomplished, except that we are being refreshed and renewed. He’s been trying to make space for that in his days and was encouraging me to do that as well. It’s important to not let external accomplishments be the main thing we use to evaluate the value of our time. I need to remember that I’m not wasting time by reading a book, sitting on the porch swing with my husband, snuggling with my child, or even taking a nap. All of these things have a value that can’t be measured easily by external outcomes. When I spend time reading I broaden my mind, when I spend time with people I strengthen relationships and connectedness, when I take a nap I’m more rested and kinder to those around me. And I even wonder if those results, however important they may be, are the only reason to make time for them. Do they have value even without the results? And what about time that is truly alone, with no distractions? Is that important?

What is value and why we do we as people have value? There is a tendency in some Christian traditions to stress our human sinfulness and weakness. We focus on how unworthy we are in order to be thankful for God’s amazing love in saving us. But I’m beginning to see a danger in that type of thinking. One of the repeated phrases in the Creation story is “And God saw that it was good.” Good, not bad. We are good, not bad. I don’t want to say that we are God, we aren’t. We do fail. We do not love God and our neighbor as we should. But leaving the moral question here behind, there is a core worth that we have just because we are. I think that when God looks at us, he sees something that is good, something that is amazing. We have worth and value that goes beyond what we do. We see a little bit of that when a child is born. The moment a child is born, that child is loved and valued by their parents, at least in most cases. Actually in most cases, that love goes back even further than that. But regardless of when it starts, that love is not based on anything the child has done. A newborn baby doesn’t really have anything to offer that the world would consider valuable. But he or she is valuable. He or she has worth, just by being. As we grow hopefully we offer things to those around us that they find valuable and unfortunately we may do things that actually harm those around us. So things get complicated, but can anything we do, positive or negative, change that initial value we have just because we are?

I know that it is hard to believe that it doesn’t, especially when it comes to ourselves. But if we can accept that for ourselves, we can begin to look at others and see the value they have, even when they don’t look like us or act like us or agree with us. We can even see value in those who harm others. Perhaps then as we see past the external and into the internal, we can begin to love as Jesus loved. My husband John wrote a very good post on how loving ourselves helps us love others that relates to this as well.

And so, back to my schedule. It’s changed quite a bit from when I first started that job. I am working very little now, but am instead trying to start my own business again. I am currently transitioning my kids to public school, and figuring out what the hours of my day should look like now. But, no matter what, I want to allow time to just be. I think sometimes I avoid time like that because it forces me to face who I am. And sometimes I don’t like who I am. Sometimes I’m even afraid of who I am. But that just tells me that I really need to spend that time in the hopes that I will start to see the value of who I am.

15 year anniversaries, 10 year remembrances, and the complicated emotions of a 35 year old.

anniversary2015I am 35 years old. In that 35 years I have changed a lot. The last 15 of those years I have been married to a wonderful man. We were young when we got married, at least according to today’s standards, and as probably many people thought, we didn’t really know what we were getting into, but who ever does? As John and I hiked down from the head of Bar Island after enjoying a beautiful view of Bar Harbor, Maine where we had been enjoying an amazing week long anniversary trip, I mentioned that 15 years ago felt like a long time. And that it was almost like we were different people then, and then I realized that yes, we were different people. We have both changed a lot. We are not the same people we married. You can’t ever predict the future, there are no guarantees when you choose a life mate, but I feel incredibly blessed in the one I chose. Fifteen years ago I greatly admired the man I married. And now, I admire even more the man he is becoming.

This trip to Maine was a long awaited dream come true for John. And it was spectacular. But it wasn’t all lovely gushy emotions that I experienced on our trip, though there was plenty of that. In fact I was surprised by the underlying sadness that pervaded my mind quite a bit of the trip. As I have shared multiple times on this blog, I often deal with anxiety. It’s been pretty dormant for the last year, but I’ve noticed a bit of an upswing lately, and unfortunately I had a much more noticeable than normal amount hit me right before our trip. It’s manageable. I’ve learned coping mechanisms over the years and this anxiety that I’m dealing with now seems to be more a general feeling of unease instead of full-blown panic attacks. So, it isn’t that I’m terribly worried about it, but why did it have to hit now when I was supposed to be relaxing and enjoying a week away with John? I don’t think it meant I had a “bad” trip, but my memories of the trip will now always be shrouded in this dark cloud that seemed to be always following me around, just close enough to cast a shadow on my otherwise bright sunny day.

There are reasons, I think, to this higher than average anxiety level and they are complicated and varied and partly due to some stressful circumstances in our lives right now, but that doesn’t help me feel any better about it. I feel closer to my husband than I possibly ever have in my whole married life and in the years of friendship before. So it is frustrating that I felt I couldn’t totally let go and enjoy this trip like I wanted to. I hope that John didn’t feel this cloud in the same way I did, and part of me hates to mention it in case he didn’t really notice and now will. But I have tried pushing it aside, and it hasn’t worked, so I am naming it, so hopefully I can accept it and move on.

To complicate matters even further, Emma’s birthday falls the day before our anniversary. July 14th rolled around and I didn’t even think about Emma all day. I knew it was the 14th, but the connection of the date and her birthday just didn’t click in my head for some odd reason. It didn’t come up until later that evening as I sat in the hotel enjoying fast internet connection for the first time on our trip and looked up my memories on facebook. Post after post from over the years popped up and I realized I had forgotten something that is important to me to remember. When we planned this trip I hadn’t even realized I’d be gone on her birthday and unable to visit the cemetery on her special day. We’ll still do it later, but why did it take me so long to remember? This was her 10th birthday after all! But maybe there was something in me that did remember. Maybe that is where some of that sadness came from. Is it possible that my body and mind were reacting to a subconscious connection to that date and the significance of 10 years? Or is that just hopeful thinking on my part? Does that sound weird that I want to be sad even if it isn’t because of a conscious remembrance?

Life gets complicated. We change and grow. Life experiences mold us. But the effects of those experiences, even deeply wounding ones change over time. Despite the fact that I appear to be grieving the fact that I am losing some of my grief, I am glad that we grow and change. I would not want to be in the same place I was 10 years ago starting a year of incredible grief and hardship. Neither do I want to be in the place I was 15 years ago, facing a new life of hope with a man I adored, yet completely oblivious to the trials ahead and with barely a clue as to how to be a wife. No, I do not want to go back to who I was. I am glad that we change and grow. But I also would not remove or change any of those points in time even if I could. They are all part of me, they are all there, shaping, building and molding me into who I am now, with the help, I hope, of God. And just as I would not choose to go back, I am also content to be where I am now, even if it means days full of confusing emotions that will take time and effort to sort through. Someday I will hopefully look back and realize that this too was an important and significant time in my life, one that will shape the years to come.