8 things I learned this summer

Nephews sunset swimming during our annual  Hill family vacation  on Canandaigua Lake, NY.

Nephews sunset swimming during our annual Hill family vacation on Canandaigua Lake, NY.

 

1. Staycations are a great solution (& Jones Beach was better than I expected). 

Since our kids have begun to leave home and our subsequent move to Connecticut, we've been exploring new rhythms of being together. Our kids are still in that transient stage of college and post-college years so I think we'll be figuring this out for a while. We don't need destiny vacations or travel-brochure excursions; just finding times to be together under one roof for a few days and nights is a major feat! In July we flew our kids to Connecticut to spend a week together, and we had a really, really good time. I'm kind of a fan of staycations anyway (I've noticed some bloggers refer to this practice as being a "hometown tourist") and we've got a long way to go to discover all the wonderful places to enjoy here in Connecticut. 

2. Ice cream stands in Fairfield County & Ferris Acres Creamery in Newtown, CT

We love the good, old-fashioned, seasonal ice cream stands scattered throughout the Northeast, and think we may have found our new favorite, thanks to our friend Amy's advice.

3. Working together with Brian - using our individual gifts and callings - is a dream come true.

In the abundant grace of God, we were invited to facilitate a couple of days of debrief for a group of Mexican and American staff championing students in the small fishing village of Chiquila, Mexico. While they worked in the rugged beauty of rural Mexico all summer, we only went as far as Cancun to meet with them which felt a little bit like cheating. We did our best to see the work through their stories, hearts, and - thanks to the help of a skilled and generous interpreter- their native language.

My heart for the work of Hands Offering Hope grew three times larger. As did my heart for my husband and to the Good Shepherd who kindly leads us to the people and places that make us more like Christ and more like our truest selves. To be able to combine our pastoral, spiritual direction, global community development, and organizational leadership passions and skills was life-giving for us, and, hopefully for those we served. My heart is full - like the liturgy we pray each week - with “gladness and singleness of heart”.

We took very few, and mostly poor photos, but here’s a glimpse.

August.Cancun edited 10.jpg

 

4. When I most need comfort is often when I'm least able to ask for it.

I've mentioned a few times that this has been an emotionally challenging season and that I'm learning how to navigate it with integrity and gentleness. On a couple of occasions in the past year, especially, I've experienced an intensity of anxiety that I haven't for many years. Brian has walked next to me through these experiences with so much gentleness even when my reflex is to push him away. I've learned that, among other important strategies for caring for my body and soul preventively, what I most need when my anxiety is hitting the fan is physical soothing. Now, rather than the anxiety coming between Brian and me (because often I can't quite tell what's set me off, and sometimes I point it at Brian), I ask him to just give me a hug. That's it. There are a time and a place for me to talk through and reflect on what's bothering me, but it usually isn't in the heat of the moment. This is not revolutionary and maybe the rest of the world has figured this out, but for some reason, it's taken us almost 28 years of marriage to understand the soothing power of a hug.

5. Why we live in Bridgeport, CT (aka, "Who the [flip] goes to Bridgeport?")

After a year renting a house in a more traditional neighborhood in Fairfield, we made the decision last summer to move into an apartment complex in Bridgeport, an area of Fairfield County - which includes nationally-coveted properties in Greenwich and Westport - that is an unconventional choice for several reasons including crime and blight. This move surprised a few of our friends and church community and I've been trying to figure out the best way to explain to myself and others why we made this choice. I'll share more in an upcoming post, but I've been grateful for the people who've asked us questions because each time helps me articulate better to myself why we're glad to live here. 

In related news: Brian and I just discovered an Amazon original series set in Bridgeport and Trumbull, CT. If you don't mind the language, here's a scene that made us laugh out loud: Who the [flip] goes to Bridgeport?!?

6. Voxer is pretty great and so are my sisters.

In the past, I've tried to stay up to date with my sisters lives through Skype sessions, but we find it harder to pick a time that worked for all of us. There's a ten-year age gap between us and our seasons of life are not in sync. My sister Alicia suggested we use the Voxer app and, while I'd used it sporadically with various friends, I didn't quite understand the way it worked. It's been the perfect solution for us to stay in touch with each other in real time. When one of us has a question or a story or an insight we want to share we record a brief (and sometimes not so brief) message on our thread and the then listen and respond as we're able. I need my sisters and value their friendship and insights so this is the perfect solution for us right now. 

7. I can live (for a limited time at least) with two dogs.

When Kendra made plans to spend two months with us this summer, she asked if she could bring her beloved pit/lab, Juliet. Have I mentioned I'm not a pet person? We've had Leo since 2013 and Duchess for about five years before that. That's because I like my husband better when he has a dog. Also, we live in a loft apartment with very few separate spaces and I couldn't imagine what it would be like to have TWO furry, smelly, occasionally raucous creatures in our space. But we gave it a try, and it wasn't too bad. The dogs played together non-stop which was sometimes cute and other times annoying. In the end, I survived and it was totally worth it to have Kendra here with us.

 

8. Rule of Life is not the end of the world

As part of my training to become certified as a Spiritual Director I've been tasked with writing a Rule of Life. If you've never heard about this practice, developed first in early Christian monastic communities, is a holistic description of the regular, intentional practices we engage to live out our life's calling. As a recovering "to do" list addict, I've spent approximately ten years avoiding the sort of lists that I could never quite match between my ideals and my current realities. This assignment has been hard for me. Really hard. A gentle nudge from my supervisor (and some helpful suggestions from this site) helped me finally buckle down. I'm working with rough draft, hoping to orient myself toward God's invitations for my life rather than forcing outdated ideals on myself. Some of the time this has felt joyous and other times frustrating. My hope is to take God at his word that the work he calls us to is not burdensome and that, in some mysterious way, we can order our lives in the way of Christ's unforced rhythms of grace

I hope you are aware of the rhythms of grace you're being invited into at the start of a new season. I'm looking forward to showing up here again on the blog a couple of times a week - it's part of my Rule of Life!

A July afternoon with my Brother's family on Jones Beach, Long Island. 

A July afternoon with my Brother's family on Jones Beach, Long Island. 


How was your summer? What are your hopes for fall? Read any good books lately?

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Peace, friends.

Tamara