A Summer of Anxious Hope and Rest

Headed to Governor's Island
Headed to NYC’s Governor’s Island with my “Roomies for Life”

This summer was far different from the one I imagined at the start of the year.

I hoped to spend it in grander ways, checking long-awaited goals off the list, like taking a lengthy vacation to Europe with my husband. But then, this spring, I parted ways with my job.

While it was a difficult situation, it was also a blessing. The summer kicked off by saying hello to the last year of my twenties. I attended a conference that reminded me of the basics of what it means to practice spiritual disciplines. Babysitting on the regular reminded of how much energy children require, but also how they delight your heart. I escaped from the busy city life and hiked multiple times.

Traveling to the Baltimore ‘Burbs for a lovely weekend eating fresh veggies and drinking wine with my sister and her childhood companion was a highlight. I attended the weddings of three dear pairs of friends from our church community. Hosting my college roommates for a weekend in the city was a blast, and I loved watching their reaction to my favorite NYC summer destination. My Sunday afternoons were occupied laugher and sunshine on Pier 13.

Spending my days reading new books inspired me, and spurred me further still towards finding my writing groove while sipping cold-brews in new coffee shops. I applied to jobs that actually seemed like a great fit with my skill set and interests. Writing more than I have in a long time and breaking blog traffic records this summer was a good milestone. (THANK YOU, dear reader!) It was both a productive and restful summer, but I still find myself frustrated.

I operate under the premise that regardless of whatever goals I have accomplished, it still won’t be enough. Guilt always seems to creep up on me because I am not bringing in a regular paycheck. I chastise myself for having the time, but not writing three times as much as I have. Annoyed that I haven’t kept a 100% perfectly clean, organized home AND exercised far more than I have, I constantly tell myself to get it together. Finding the balance of working hard then resting well seems like a habit hard to form. I am forever trying to find a balance, fighting against self-sabotage and self-deprecating habits.

It has been nice to have the summer “off” from a 9-5 gig to be able to play and travel and explore and job hunt, but I am also starting to crave the stability of a structured schedule again. Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine what job will allow me to do things at which I excel, but actually afford the energy to write as well as live and save like I want to in order to meet our goals as a family. I struggle to live in the moment. As a habitual forecaster (and worrier), I am always looking forward to the next thing.

Admittedly, I am easily overwhelmed. I worry that I can’t have both – that I must choose a steady job that bores me to tears or the wild, inhibited life of a writer. Some days I am finding it hard to define my hopes for fall. A happy medium must exist. I am impatient. I want to know what is next on the horizon, but I want to make the choices from a healthy, clear-minded place and not one of exasperation and throwing in the towel. I want to walk into the next season of my life confidently, bright-eyed with anticipation of what is yet to come.

What did you do this summer? What are you looking forward to this fall? How do you practice work/life balance?

 

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Five Things Friday: 9.12.14

Ok, five-ish. I have a lot to share with you!

Listen
image source: theartofsimple.net
image source: theartofsimple.net

I can’t stop listening to The Art of Simple Podcast thanks to my friends with great taste over at Help You Dwell.

And speaking of dwelling, the things I am bursting at the seams to share with you this week are absolutely all about helping you life a better, fuller, simpler life.

Wear

style me september

Last month I discovered Hilary Rushford’s Style Me prompts, and I am having an absolute blast shopping my own closet each day to meet the daily challenge. Hello, THIS is how you get a writer to look nice!

Since listening to Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist on The Art of Simple, I’ve fallen down a minimalist rabbit hole, which has led me to sell things I don’t need on Craigslist and… minimalist fashion.

Capsule wardrobes.
Remixing your closet.
Wardrobe architect.
Wardrobe revamp.

You’re welcome.

I have been researching on Pinterest for DAYS, ya’ll. I’m a little obsessed. But in the best way possible, because it is pushing me to re-think what I already have instead of sulking over the clothing pieces I’m missing. You already know how much I struggle with longing for things I can’t have. It’s a reminder that I buy so much crap and it’s actually making my life harder. This is such a healthy practice – it’s gratitude, for your closet.

Taste
MIMSC_THM_Sausage_Pie
Sausage version of Cheeseburger Pie

I’ve been trying to follow the principles of Trim Healthy Mama for a while now after witnessing a friend’s success, and have found that a few of the recipes have become go-tos:

Peanut Butter Cookie Overnight Oatmeal
Cheeseburger Pie (At Nick’s suggestion, I made a delicious sausage breakfast version!)
Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies (Sugar-free and Gluten-free!)
Good Girl Moonshine (I prefer to use seltzer so it’s like a stronger ginger-ale)

I’m aiming to eat food as fuel at home and treat myself when we go out. So, no miraculous results yet but I like knowing I’m eating well at home. All things in moderation, right?

Watch

This is the most uplifting 9/11 tribute I may have ever seen. I never even considered this side of the story before. Entirely worth your 12 minutes.

Read

MIMSC_Bookstack

Sarah Bessey’s post Be Not Afraid. So timely with the anniversary of 9/11 this week. We don’t need to live in fear.

I just finished Shauna Niequest’s memoir Bittersweet, and it made me both laugh and bawl my freaking eyes out, so you know, it goes in the keeper column. If Glennon’s saying about life being brutiful (brutal + beautiful) resonates, and you also don’t mind lengthy descriptions of food, you’ll devour this one ;)

So what are you loving lately?

Dating for Real: the Second Time Around

The first time we dated, summer 2008
Summer 2008, when it all began

The first time we dated, I repeatedly told Nick I would not be his girlfriend “until I had peace about it.”

What that looked like and felt like, I had no idea. I spent our dates and weekends together in a state of utter panic and constant comparison to my last relationship. I would run off pros and cons list in my head, keeping track of all the elements he was missing that didn’t measure up to my expectations. Sometimes it felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack because the accusing voices in my head refused to shut up. I had never truly experienced peace in a relationship before, but somehow I knew I would recognize it if it appeared, and I wasn’t willing to move forward into a committed relationship until it materialized.

More than anything, when I met the person who would be my future husband, I wanted to know, deep down, that this was the person for me. I was not willing to leap blindly into my future, hoping for the best.

Nick and I had maintained our friendship through the duration of my six-month relationship with my TN ex. He was encouraging and careful not to overstep his boundaries. But a few weeks after Nick and my friend Rachel visited me in Knoxville for my birthday, and weeks before I my ended my crumbling long-term relationship, Nick wrote me the most incredible email I’ve probably ever received.

At the Brooklyn Bridge before I moved south, February 2009
At the Brooklyn Bridge before I moved south, February 2009

My favorite part is this:

“When you are not around I struggle to have full enjoyment in my life. It doesn’t matter what I do, I am always thinking to myself, “Man, I wish Erika was here beside me to enjoy this.” When I am watching tv, movies or listening to music, I am always hearing myself go, “Erika would love this, she would laugh, cry, or aw at this moment.” I don’t think these things about anyone else, even my best friends of several years. There’s something vastly different about you. When I spend time with you, I connect deeper with every moment of whatever mundane activity I am doing. In a way you are like salt to my soul and you enhance everything you touch…

I really don’t know what I am expecting by sharing all of this with you, however what I do know is that I feel like the timing is right to share these things. I am not expecting you to end your relationship with him immediately or that you or I need to move to each others given city. I just want you to know that there is someone out there who you can love you better than he or anyone else ever could or want to and that person who capable of doing it is me.

I love you. Always have and will, no matter what happens to us in life.”

That email was the most beautiful and devastating thing to receive. I knew my current relationship was falling apart at the seams – it was only a matter of time before I would finally admit defeat. And in the year prior, I had wavered so precariously in my relationship with Nick that I did not want to allow history to repeat itself. Nick had become a dear friend, one of my best, and I was not willing to lead him on. However, when I broke things off w/ my ex in June, Nick began pursuing me again. I tried to discourage him, noting that we were over 600 miles apart, and I loved my community and life I had built in Knoxville despite having my heart broken.

I tried to convince him to let me go and to pursue that new cute girl I had seen him hanging out with via Facebook. I told him I couldn’t deny that I wonder who both of us would grow into in a few years’ time, but I would never want that fact to hold him back from something incredible in the place where God has clearly called him to be. I determined that if he found a girl in Hoboken, his love life would be a lot easier than trying to win over the basket case he had fallen for in Tennessee. I felt broken and bruised and in no way capable of pursuing love.

Cheering for the Vols, Sept 2009
Cheering for the Vols, Sept 2009

For the rest of the summer, Nick asked in various ways to give us another chance. He knew we would work, and that my feelings for him ran deeper than I was willing to admit. A few times I mentioned I wanted to visit him, but he wasn’t ready to see me unless I wanted to explore the possibility of more between us. Finally, he decided to come to Knoxville over Labor Day weekend, but wanted to take me on a date. I told him he would do no such thing. He was welcome to come visit as a friend, but two months after breaking up with the person I thought would be the love of my life, I was nowhere near ready to date again so soon.

He decided to visit anyway.

The day of Nick’s arrival, I found myself fidgeting anxiously in the airport. As I waited in the baggage claim area, the escalator descended and Nick came into view. My heart leap in my chest simultaneously declaring, “There’s my best friend! And damn he looks good!” I knew then that my resolve to remain friends was melting. Our time together had yet to start, but already I was done for.

Labor Day Picnic, September 2009
Labor Day Picnic, September 2009

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity and conversations. Everything came with ease, and I found myself flirting with and drawing closer to Nick effortlessly. We went to our first Vols game, picnicked with friends, watched “Boomsday” fireworks, and found ourselves once more on the dance floor. We even went on a  date. On Nick’s final night in Knoxville, we sat by the water in World’s Fair Park and finally had our DTR (define the relationship talk). I was so nervous, but we were both aware that things between us had drastically changed.

More than anything else, I was keenly aware that I finally had peace.

It settled over me slowly as the weekend passed, like a comforting blanket. For the first time in years, my mind was quiet for days. The book of Philippians talks about the peace of God that “surpasses all understanding,” and I had no doubt I was experiencing it. The chattering monkeys had gone mute. There were no voices, no comparisons, no lingering questions about whether my previous relationship still needed another chance. I was from my self-induced mental prison. I was free to move forward.

nick_erika_lenzi_worlds_fair
The night we officially began dating again, September 2009

We agreed to give a relationship another chance, despite the 600+ miles between us. Common sense would say that I had no business trying yet another long-distance distance relationship, but I could tell that our situation had changed significantly. Nick asked that I would let him know before Thanksgiving if I was ready to be in a serious relationship, intentionally considering whether or not we were headed towards marriage. As crazy as that may sound to some, we had gone in last time with very little conversation about our expectations and having clearly communicated goals helped tremendously. A month later, we became “official.”

So dear ones, to those of you who are longing to know what it will be like when you finally meet “the one” – at some level, you have to trust your gut and if you are a follower of Christ, the promptings of the Holy Spirit. You have to lean on the promises you know God has made you in your quiet conversations alone in your room. He knows your heart, and His way of working things out for your good may not be in your preferred timing, but He is listening. Be open to where He is leading you, even if it does not make sense to your rational mind.

What do you expect it to be like when you meet “the one?” If you have already met them, what was your indicator that this was it?