It’s interesting how much has changed for me this year, even since I started this blog in the spring. Although it’s been a few years since I began slowing my life down to breathe more, it’s only been a few months since I’ve made a lot of other lifestyle changes. Yet some of my new habits feel like they’ve been with me forever already. I know it’s a bit early for a year’s review, but I’m feeling reflective and thankful and ought to write it down now and acknowledge it.
Just this year (after dabbling with the idea since Tyler’s birth) I became truly committed to feeding our family whole grains and cooking from scratch. Now I generally don’t even slow down as I pass aisles of pastas and cereals and breads made with refined white flour and I walk right past the boxed meals, which may seem inconsequential to others, but has been a huge life change for me this year. The time I take to shop carefully and cook wholesome meals has become an integral part of how I take care of my family and our health. Having had gestational diabetes with both pregnancies, the boys and I have an increased chance (mine is 70%!) of becoming diabetic, so I will do everything I can to keep that from happening. And with Tyler’s new nut allergy this year, I find myself reading every label, wondering why there are so many un-pronouncable ingredients in processed foods. I like that when I brought home hot dogs with white bread buns the other night because I had to buy our dinner at Target there was much rejoicing because we all knew it was a special treat. So as you can see, I am not religious about it, and we happily enjoy whatever we’d like when we’re eating out, but at home our general routine now is having healthy meals on a regular basis.
When I think about how much of our lives are spent eating or preparing meals, it’s not a surprise that another major life change comes in the arena of food: our commie basket, as Greg calls it. Being a part of our local CSA (community supported agriculture) and determining this spring to begin eating organically and locally has changed our diets drastically. Even Greg, the most skeptical of all skeptics, has realized how much better our food tastes now that we’re eating seasonally and locally. It has given me a new compassion for the farmers with whom I come face to face at the farmer’s market each week, and it has introduced us to some new types of produce. It has changed our mindsets and renewed our excitement about each new fruit as it comes in to season. It has pretty much eliminated bananas from our diet, but has brought the boys and I such pleasure at the prospect of apple season, which I only somewhat vaguely knew was in the fall before this year. I love that eating seasonally gives our family yet another yearly rhythm, moving us slowly from season to season, from one crop to the next. Saying goodbye to our beloved strawberries means saying hello to apples. God designed this yearly rhythm of the crops, so it’s no wonder that it brings me peace and feels comfortable for our family. Isn’t it funny that only a few months after deciding to do this, I get annoyed when I see recipes in cooking magazines for asparagus, knowing that if anyone is making asparagus at this time of year, they’re flying it in from South America and it’s been bred for the trip, not for their tastebuds. Oh yes, now you can see why Greg calls it our commie basket and tells me I’m spreading vegetable propaganda.
Listen was my word for the year, and I had hoped to learn how to listen to others better, along with some other things. Little did I know that this would be the year for learning to listen to God and his direction, too. Reading Keri Wyatt Kent’s book, so appropriately entitled “Listen: finding God in the story of your life,”
while at a retreat led by her on the topic, was the culmination and paradoxically the beginning of my journey of listening. I’m listening to my heart in the family decisions I make instead of listening to what the world is doing or what they say I should do. I’m listening to my kids and my friends more fully as I learn not to multi-task when there’s someone who needs me to hear them. I’m listening to my Lord more purposefully as I read and learn more about how he can speak to me and lead my life. In all this new listening, I’m realizing that I need more than a year to focus on listening! I may stretch this year’s word into next year. Most important to me is that through listening I’m becoming more compassionate towards others and more mindful of my own true needs, too.
I have never really been consumed by buying and keeping stuff, but only lately have I begun to realize how much having “stuff” can consume our time. I am slowly but surely paring down our possessions to that which we truly need for ourselves or which provide for the church fellowship we host in our home. I have finally realized that the more stuff I have, the more stuff I have. It has no meaning. If it is does not add beauty to my life, it doesn’t generally give me more time or more happiness. This, with the huge exception of the breadmaker and the kitchenaid mixer I acquired this year, the former being free from my daddy, the latter costing me $50 from a friend of my aunt. Now those two machines do buy me time and happiness. Oh yes, I do recognize that there are some wonderful possessions out there that improve a person’s life! But they are some of the few exceptions to the rule. Therefore, I am spending very little time out buying, and much more time home, living.
I’m learning that decisions are personal. Each person and each family is on a road of their own, moving in their own direction. Not only will I probably be doing something years from now that I always disdained and denounced as ridiculous or even wrong, but I should recognize that other people have the right to make their own decisions today. Hmmm…now that’s quite a mindset change for me. And this is one I’m really working on moving from my head down into my heart. This is just the beginning of the journey for me on that one.
Life is for living. Yes, I must keep the house from falling to bits around our ears and I’m still working hard to develop routines to sustain my rather lame housekeeping attempts. Yes, I must cook for us, which means shopping, but we go to Trader Joe’s where a lollipop for finding a hidden monkey makes that trip much more fun for Tyler and I. Yes, I must do errands and go places I’d rather not be, but that is not my life. Going to the park and going to the meadow and sewing for fun and reading a book and cuddling a boy and smelling a good meal and connecting with God through all of these…that is life. It was hard to see that during the last few toddlerhood years, when life seemed to consist of cleaning up someone else’s messes from dawn until dusk (and even into the night!). I’m welcoming true life back. Or maybe I never really embraced it fully before now. Either way, I’m glad for it.