a snapshot of the glorious ordinary

ordinary

I haven’t written in this space in awhile. In fact, it’s been almost six months since my last post. I’ve asked myself a few times why I’m not writing as much. The simplest answer is that I feel like I don’t have much to write about. Yet this space is supposed to be “finding beauty + grace in the ordinary + imperfect.” So for me to think that life just seems too ordinary to write about is exactly missing the point – that the reason I began blogging in the first place was to record the wonder of the every day. To force myself to focus on the daily glory and grace that are flooding in, if only I have eyes to notice.

So in neglecting writing, I have kept myself from reflecting on life. Without further ado, here is a snapshot of what feels ordinary and certainly imperfect … but I record it in order to help myself (and you as well?) find the beauty and grace in it.

  • I work a traditional “9-to-5” as a litigation paralegal in my dad’s medical malpractice law firm. This constitutes the majority of my waking hours and it’s my weekday normal. Working for my dad and his partners in this field of medical malpractice (MedMal for short) has been like learning a new language. I am not medically trained at all, and yet a majority of my job has been reviewing, organizing, and making sense of medical records. Add to that the legal world of motions and hearings and objections and stipulated evidence – and it really has been a whole new world for me.
  • My husband is a full-time Ph.D. student, studying long-distance to get his doctorate in Christian Education from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) outside of Chicago. He is also the major home support – greets our daughters after school each day and keeps our home running (laundry, dishes, bills, etc.).
  • Our twin daughters are now in second grade. They have homework every day, and they’re reading up a storm. They love their school and their friends and their books.  We enjoy playing games as a family and riding bikes and going on hikes.
  • We are members of a sweet church-plant in downtown Greenville that loves the arts, the addicted, the poor, the adopted, and best of all, the gospel of grace. It has been a good season for us to simply be involved in a church as a family instead of leading a church.
  • Challenges that I wrestle with in this season include:  how to slow down time because it really seems like our daughters are growing up way too quickly; how to encourage our daughters to love one another with kindness instead of sibling squabbles; how to make the most of the limited time (nights + weekends) I have with family and friends; setting different expectations in this season of full-time work/husband in full-time school; finding time for reflection (and writing!).

I think part of the reason I haven’t written in awhile is that this season of life has been so very different for all of us. I haven’t known how to talk about my job as a litigation paralegal when my identity/platform/calling was previously as a counselor in the local church (for a decade). So much of my writings were a combination of insights/reflections from life as a counselor who was also a pastor’s wife and a part-time stay-at-home-mama of twin preschoolers. My life and roles now are just quite different. I’m the full-time working parent in our home currently; I’m the wife of a Ph.D. student; I’m the mama of elementary age girls who are increasingly independent (as it should be). They don’t even have to rely on me to read to them anymore – what a change that is!

And then the other reason is this stubborn, persistent struggle with burnout and depression over the past few years. I’m not sure I’ll ever write all about that in as public a space as this blog – yet I am willing to share more if it would help others. I’ve been through places of darkness that I did not know were possible to come out of, and yet God has brought me out through the Light of His grace as it shone through His people and His word. After years of pedal-to-the-medal going-going-going in every direction (home, church, career, writing) – I just couldn’t go any further. And I stopped. Fairly abruptly. And for much longer than I would have chosen. Depression was a source of the burnout as much as it was a consequence of the burnout.

Yet in all of the ups and downs of the past few years … and in all the very ordinariness of our current day-to-day … this verse is one I cherish. And I end tonight’s post with this, making it my prayer for you to know this, too, wherever your day-to-day life finds you these days:

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:6)

A Time to Read and a Time to Write

In thinking about life as seasons, I believe that the book of Ecclesiastes gives much wisdom in its most well-known (and oft-quoted) passage about the passing of time – and what different times are for (Eccl 3:1-8):

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

We have recently transitioned from our “time of saying good-bye” to a “time of saying hello” and are coming out of our “time of adjustment.” The grocery store doesn’t feel so foreign anymore. I don’t usually get lost going to the places I need to go in a week. We are making new friends. I have my two favorite classes at the gym that I schedule my week around (Casey’s awesome TurboKick class and Becky’s BodyFlow class – combo tai-chi/yoga/pilates). I now go to ballet class with two friends on Wednesday evenings where I’m learning how to pirouette (and arabesque and demi-plie …). Church is beginning to be filled with more people who are familiar rather than unfamiliar. Women’s Bible Study started two weeks ago. Seth & I have begun weekly tutoring with underprivileged kids in Norfolk, and we had week two of our community group tonight. Counseling is gradually picking up week to week.

imagesAnd yet even in the midst of so much going on, I’ve been in a season of reading rather than writing. I know there’s a lot to process still, but I’m enjoying a “time to read.” And that season will eventually (like tonight) overflow into a “time to write.” On my bookshelf right now:

Freakonomics by Levitt/Dubner – reading this for book club – more interesting than I thought it would be, as one who is certainly NOT economically inclined

In The Company of Cheerful Ladies the 6th in “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series by Alexander McCall Smith – the fictional series about a female detective who sets up shop in a small African town in Botswana – very interesting read!

Undoing Depression by Richard O’Connor – it’s been surprisingly refreshing to read as an honest look at depression and its treatment – though not from a Christian point of view, his viewpoint does not readily espouse any one particular psychological school of thought and he advocated for ideas that I see as being answered fully with a Biblical worldview. Here’s his commentary on the series of various psychological theories over the past few decades:

“Now most new ideas are being touted as paradigm-shifters. The concept is in danger of losing its meaning by being trivialized. But the fact is that the Freudian theory of human functioning has been on its last legs for some time, and we wait for a new theory, a new paradigm, to replace it. … New medications have helped literally millions of people, and understanding certain problems as physiologically rather than psychologically based has changed somewhat how we think of ourselves. But although there is a wish to achieve a biochemical theory of human behavior, our current knowledge leaves us far from it; and if we had it, it would not answer our most interesting human questions. (p. 51)”

Talk about a set-up for a “new” paradigm to be introduced! Yet one that has been in existence since the beginning of the world … And especially since my philosophy is that these “most interesting human questions” cannot be answered except by the author of those most interesting humans, God Himself.

There’s one more segment that I found especially poignant as well:

“Anyone who defines himself in terms of other people is at risk for depression. The more sources of gratification one has in one’s life, and the more predictable and controllable those resources, the less risk for depression. If a woman is taught to define her worth in terms of keeping her husband happy, she is too dependent on an arbitrary and capricious source of gratification. If she is taught that her worth is measured by raising happy and successful children, her self-esteem depends on forces over which she really has very little control.”

Although O’Connor’s point here is to show how cultural expectations contribute to more depression in women than men (who primarily define themselves by a “more predictable source of gratification” in their jobs), his observations ring true to Biblical teaching. St. Augustine said “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” And there is warning after warning throughout the Bible not to put your trust in people but in God. We are created in God’s image, and so we are created to glorify God. How do we do so? A modern-day theologian, John Piper, summarizes Biblical teaching well when he says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Again and again there are invitations throughout the Bible to “come, you who are thirsty, come and eat …” (Is. 55) and “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). So certainly any counseling for one struggling with depression should include attention not only to the physical aspects but also to the underlying spiritual aspect as well – which is a soul desirous of a closer relationship with the Creator and Redeemer.

In my “cue” to read next is Beautiful Boy about a father’s journey through his son’s addiction. No more light summer reading for me!