Change

The Beauty in Change

I’m happy to be bringing to you the second guest blog post here at 52 Beautiful Things. Ms. Stoecker and I quickly bonded as our awkward sixth grade selves found each other in a bible study. We have been friends, working and growing into who we are meant to be, ever since.

Author: Jenny Stoecker  

Twitter: @JennyStoecker   Blog: www.JennyStoecker.com

I have never met a chick flick I didn’t like. It should embarrass me to admit that anything from Hallmark to Lifetime to a downright classic makes my heart happy…but I love them so much it doesn’t matter. My top three favorites are You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and While You Were Sleeping. If you haven’t seen them before, go do so now. I’ll wait…

I’ve learned a lot about love from these movies: that you can find it in an “Over Thirty” chat room, on the top of the Empire State Building, or while pretending to be engaged to someone in a coma. (So far none of these scenarios have panned out well for me, but I’ll keep you posted.) The more realistic aspect of these movies I’ve carried with me has to do with change.

In While You Were Sleeping, the supposed love of Sandra Bullock’s life goes into a coma. How does she handle this earth-shattering change? By creating her own idealistic (um…unrealistic) fairytale scenario. In Sleepless in Seattle, Tom Hank’s wife dies and he moves across the country, combating one life change with another. In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan is forced to close her store and handles it with resentment and a lot of tears.

When facing change in the past, I’ve stood with Meg and shared her sentiments, “People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen at all has happened.”

I met upcoming life changes with worry about the future while grasping so tightly to the present that I forgot to really enjoy either one.

Growing up, I was never the kid who wanted to be adult. The never-grow-up mentality was still with me four years ago when I was forced to graduate college. I was thrown into a world I wasn’t ready for—one where I was lonely, under qualified, and ready to quit. Yet looking back, it was in that season of difficult change that I learned patience, independence, and to trust the Lord in a deeper way then ever before.

While Meg was right that I hadn’t wanted the change to happen, it turned out to be the bearer of so much beauty in my world. It was with this realization that my heart slowly (I mean really slowly) began to long for the new growth that only change can bring.

This mindset gave me the freedom to dream without holding back and I started to ask myself, “What would I dive into if I wasn’t afraid of change?”

For me the answer was graduate school. So in less then two months, I’ll be moving to Scotland to pursue a masters. I’ve never been to Scotland (although I hope it’s filled with kilts, bagpipes, and Harry Potter) and I don’t know anyone who lives there. In the past this would have gone one of two ways: I would have been so excited to go that I neglected the present, or so freaked out to go that I clung too tightly to what was already the past.

Instead, without the fear of change, God has given me the ability to soak in every bit of goodness in my life here in the States, while still being healthily excited about what He has for me next. Change is forcing me to recognize the gifts I currently have, and the hopes I so long to see come to fruition.

Like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks ending up together at the end of every rom-com (that’s romantic comedy for any males that have actually made it to the end of this post), change is inevitable. I have come to agree with those Meg criticizes—change is a good thing, because it has become the catalyst that causes me to see beauty in my every day. How do you view change?

JS Bio PicJenny makes her home in her favorite state of Colorado. She loves Jesus, pancakes, traveling, photography, sarcasm, making lists and people. She’s passionate about the work she does, serving people in poverty with VisionTrust International. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @JennyStoecker. Don’t forget to check out her blog www.jennystoecker.com.

My Story is Beautiful

I came across Allison’s blog when I just started out in 2013. I was drawn to her interest in exploring beautiful things, where she was at in her journey as a newly wed, and took comfort in the fact, that she, too, had postponed her wedding.

It has been fun to see how her story has evolved, so when her call for guest contributors to her blog collection called “My Story is Beautiful” came up, I quickly jumped at the chance.

I am excited to be featured on her blog today. You can check it out here.

If you are interested in being a Guest Contributor on my blog – email me at 52beautifulthings@gmail.com

Three Words

Three words. Paid Time Off.

What a gloriously beautiful week of vacation I had. Time to sleep, time to read, time to laugh, time to eat. And eat. And eat. Time for gifts and family and brunches and egg nog and stockings and celebrations. I am thankful I work at an organization that allows for paid vacation. I needed a break.

Three words. “First Married Christmas”.

I love Christmas and my first married one went smashingly well. What caught my attention this year was that everyone felt the need to point out that this was the first Christmas of significance between Dylan and I. I felt strangely pressured to make the holiday significant. We chose to spend Christmas Eve just the two of us and I made crab legs. Delicious, splurge the budget, crab legs. IMG_2117

We did not go to church (the first year of my whole life). Instead we drove around to look at Christmas lights, and watched “Elf”. It was enjoyable and I very much enjoyed the calm before the family stampede, but in many respects, the night felt no different than the 6 Christmas Eve nights I had spent with Dylan before. There were just less people around. Taking the pressure off of myself, and giving permission to live the moments as they unfold. Traditions will develop for our little family, but this, too, is a process. I get to choose how to navigate this new territory of Christmas traditions as an “us”.

Three words. A White Christmas.

It snowed! And in fact, it is still snowing and winter has arrived. The idyllic flakes of white magic continued to fall from mid Christmas Day until late in the evening. The frozen crystals painted a backdrop that was intended to truly capture our “First Married Christmas” just like the ‘ol days. You know those old, nostalgic Christmas Card scenes that float around with images of the 1800’s on them? The snow flakes are embossed, textured, glittery. The old church gleams and gentlemen in caps and ladies in outrageous dresses that weighed eight tons look flustered because they are carrying packages for twenty? Did Christmas really look like that for them? I want to update those images and include a more picturesque version of today’s reality.  What would you put on the cover? I’m still trying to decide. Here is a picture of our “First Christmas”. I am not stoned – I just have deep set eyes. Don’t look at the eyes, it is my hair that looks great. And oh, those snow flakes.

IMG_2127

Three words. Christmas Number Four. 

Despite efforts to condense Christmas celebrations with a brunch held at our house, we still hustled and bustled our holiday cheer to four different family celebrations. (Did this phrase come about because women in those ridiculous 1800’s dresses had to bustle their apparel before they could move briskly across town? This is all becoming more clear.) With each event or stage in the marathon my heart swelled. How did I get so lucky to live so close to my family, to want to invite not only my parents and brother and his friends to our home, but to include grandmas and aunts and cousins. I am blessed to come up with creative gifts for exchanges and humorous antics to share at the dinner table. I’m spoiled beyond belief and bask in gratitude for the humans that love upon me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The need to summarize thoughts and collectively label my experiences each week has challenged me this year. Do I need to implicitly spell out my intentions, or am I doing a good enough job painting a picture that you can follow along? No really, I want to know what you think. This week, there was so much beauty in the in-between space in holiday happenings. I was giddy and to be honest, a little intimidated at the prospect of creating my own family holiday traditions. I have, after all, spent the last 20 or so years participating in Christmas in the only way I know how. The way my mother likes it. I was sad I didn’t come running up the stairs in pajama pants that matched my mom’s. Stockings were opened at 2 pm, rather than 8, and on the couch in front of the fire rather than my parent’s big four-poster bed. (Sharing too much about my family’s personal boundaries?) Yet, each family continued to accept the small, detail oriented changes, that suggest we are all morphing into a new normal. We accept each other with open arms and seasonal joy, while continuing to navigate what it means to be our own little units. Think holiday mitosis. It’s mesmerizing, and yet the split, at times, can be a little shocking at first.

Three Words. Happy New Year. 

Incomplete

I’m feeling insecure. Is the pursuit of beauty cliche? Does looking at leaves on a Saturday constitute as a hum drum, expected, yawn of a post? I could spend tonight writing about the Colorado Aspens in September. Or maybe, even, the beauty of access to cold medicine because my head has been stuffed to the brim with gook. It happened, the wedding melt down and stress let down led to a stuffy nose and a brain full of fog. It happens to me at the end of something big. I could count on it during the end of finals week in college, at the end of any major accomplishment. The bog of a cold snuck up on Thursday and hasn’t quite left. That doesn’t feel beautiful – actually quite the opposite.

Tonight, I suppose, I want to talk about the beauty of reclaiming unanswered situations. This is a theme I talk about because I think it helps my sanity. It helps me feel grounded, and makes me feel that I have some semblance of control in my life when change happens. Like I’ve said, I don’t like change. Dylan and I were talking at dinner about some next decisions we have to make, and we said maybe, as you grow up, you get more comfortable making decisions individually, without worrying about all of the pieces being in place. Get more comfortable, not get better at putting together the whole puzzle perfectly. Dang it, I wish it was the other way around.

I feel incomplete right now. My to do list at work seems to be growing rather than shrinking. There is ambiguity in a new job title, and new responsibilities, and the realization that having a job as an adult means having responsibilities where the buck stops at me. Thats new, and I don’t know how to completely fill that space. I feel incomplete in changing my name – there are so many pieces of an identity I have to get straightened out. I feel incomplete in knowing where we are going to live next year, and which commuter town we should go to to make life more fair for my spouse.  I feel incomplete in sharing money with a new person. I feel anxious that I have waves of acceptance that I’ll probably never feel complete either. I mean what does that mean, because like I predicted before, achieving one goal often leads to the opening of another door and new opportunity. Overall doesn’t this lend to a circle of ‘incompleteness?’

So tonight, I sit in this in between space, and reflect on this meditation, and know that God will continue to bring us good things. That maybe clarity will develop, and maybe it won’t, but we have been given the grace to make good decisions in the mean time. Meditations are beautiful and being nice to myself, even when feeling incomplete, is quite extraordinary.

CULTIVATING MINDFULNESS

written by Jon Kabat-Zin

1. The real meditation is how you live your life.

2. In order to live life fully, you have to be present for it.

3. To be present, purposefully bring awareness to your moments – otherwise you may miss many of them.

4. You do this by paying attention and non-judgment to whatever arises.

5. This requires a great deal of kindness toward yourself, which you deserve.

6. It helps to keep in mind that good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, the present moment is the only one in which you are alive. Therefore, it’s the only time to learn, grow, see what is really going on, find some degree of balance, feel and express emotions such as love and appreciation, and do what we need to do – even in the face of pain and suffering.

7. So it is a gentle love affair with the present moment.

8. We do that through learning to rest in awareness of what is happening inwardly and outwardly, moment by moment– “being” rather than “doing.”

9. Formal and informal meditation practices are specific ways in which you can ground, deepen, and accelerate this process.

10. Realize that this moment is already very special – because you are alive and awake in it.

11. You have a lot of moments so treat each one as a new beginning — there are always new moments to open up to if you miss some.

12. We do all this with a huge amount of self-compassion.

13. You are not your thoughts or opinions, your likes or dislikes. They are more like weather patterns in your mind that you can be aware of – like clouds moving across the sky – and so you don’t have to be imprisoned by them.

14. Befriending yourself in this way is the adventure of a lifetime.

Swedish Fish for the Win

I can’t see my kitchen table again. Well I can see the table. I can’t see the surface of the table. I can’t explain it, but this time, this mess seems more enjoyable. It’s a mess of completion, accomplishment, and arrival at the finish line. Here are the things I’ve got going on within that surface.

photo-5

1) Clearly, Swedish Fish were the most popular candy evidenced by the fact that we are still drowning in Starbursts and Skittles. My favorite candy wins the popularity contest.

2) Our wedding centerpieces were beautiful – but made even more attractive with flowers in the blue bottles. The white box with holes doesn’t have quite the same charm. I must invest in some floral arrangement components soon.

3) I’ve got a long list of thank you notes to write. I also need to buy stamps.

4) I’m in the midst of a name change. It’s an odd middle to be existing in. The transition from one name to another leads to new hesitant introductions and insecure laughs when I state my name. Who is this person with a new identity? I feel I’m living my way into it a little bit. Now I get to go wait at the DMV to make it final.

5) Again I am washed over with love and blessings as we set out in this new beginning. Its rather freeing to say over and over again, ‘yup, we did it.’

My list isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but there is a lot laid out on this table. Small objects that symbolize a culmination and yet a wonderful beginning too. Forgive me, I reflect often.

This week was a busy one, with many adjustments and catching up to do. I did notice, though, the simplicity in a game of cards. Cribbage to be exact. Now let me back up here. Cribbage gets a bad reputation as ‘an old man’s game’. I guess I fail to see the problem with that reputation – personally I really like it. I was first taught how to play at a friends house in third grade. I was not good. Then later along the line, my dad brought me up to speed.  My dad is good. Not just good, really good. And he is competitive. Not in an out loud obnoxious, rude way. No, more in a passive, ‘I’m going to kick your butt and you know it so I will just sit here and smile’ way. He still helps me count my cards and make sure I’ve fully accounted for everything in my hand, but he will still win.

Friday night I got to play cribbage with my dad, at my grandma’s house, while Dylan was away. We had pizza, like they do every Friday these days, and it was a nice reminder that while significant events happen and life can change, I can still play cribbage with my dad. And yes, he still won.

Then, this week, at a meeting for work at the coffee shop nearby I walked in and noticed two older gentleman sitting at a small table near the window. Here come’s that reputation for the game. They were playing cribbage. Their cards were large faced and the numbers huge, and they used a shuffling machine to cut the deck. Oh man, did they warm my heart. I don’t know anything about these men, and I’m hoping they were friends, and that they are happy. What that observation reminded me is that there is comfort in a game of cards, comfort in connection, and comfort in continuing to look for beauty when life changes and you enter new territory.

What comforts you when you enter uncharted territory? When you look around at what is surrounding you what does that tell you about your life?

We found the old VHS

You know who is a genius? Kristen Wiig. Seriously, that girl makes me laugh in so many situations. This morning, when looking at my Twitter feed at 6 am as I waited for my boss to pick me up for an all day training, I came across this funny meme (is that how you spell it? I’m too tired, I can’t think straight). The tweet was referencing improvement at work, but I felt it resonate deep into my bones. At least in a humorous way.

photo 4

With two weeks to go until the wedding, Kristen’s character from the movie “Bridesmaids” is channeling my inner insecurities. The little perfectionist inside me is yelling the same sentence. Replace Carol with Katie and whelp, you’ve got it. I’ve been staying up late and paying bills at night and making to do lists like a mad woman. My mom is going out of town next week (no judgement people – she’s a wonderful mother) but this means a lot of final lists and conversations about what to delegate to my dad. I’m sending lots of texts to my future mother in law and talking to vendors and I need to breathe at work.  It’s Wednesday night, not Monday, when I usually post and according to WordPress it’s Thursday morning from wherever they keep track, so yup, I’m behind here too. I wanted to take a moment to reflect and to post. Please forgive me that this is my space to process and vent and purge all thoughts wedding. It’s where I’m at.

We knew August was going to go fast and it is flying. This week I was able to pause just a little to reflect on the beauty of home grown produce. Isn’t it fun to see gardens yield something you can actually eat. I’m not going to attempt to post recipes here but we did make a mean green bean salad with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and a delicious dressing. The crunch of green beans are delightful.

Too, the easiest dinner is home made bruschetta. Thank you to Giada for a great Bruschetta Recipe! I used the little cherry tomatoes that we have been growing on our porch in tiny pots. I am SO proud of these stinkin’ tomatoes that seem to want to grow every which way. Maybe next year we will have a lawn. It’s nice to slow down at night and have a glass of wine and a quality meal. I guess I do have that priority together still.

Dylan had a birthday yesterday! Poor guy is doing a fabulous job of letting his birthday be, well, not a huge deal this year. We did make time though to go out for a nice dinner and to enjoy each other outside of the house. We splurged a little, and it felt extravagant to be together and talk about ‘us’ before the madness of all of this settles in. Good madness, but a little overwhelming.

photo 3-3

Over wine and a few courses of dinner I realized I have been with this man through so much. We started dating when I was 19. 19! That’s crazy. And here we are, more than a few years later, dreaming up ways to spend our money and formalize a life together. It made me remember when my biggest stress was registering for college classes; now the stressors are different, more adult, more like insurance plans and 401ks and institutionalized paperwork like marriage licenses. It makes me feel immensely blessed to have such a great person to help me figure things out.

Tonight, Dylan was away bottling beer for the wedding and so I went to eat with my parents. I wanted to watch “Father of the Bride”, Steve Martin style circa 1990 something. Long story short I couldn’t figure out the old VHS tape (yes, my dad still has the VHS) and this movie is not on Netflix streaming, and not in iMovie and so we settled for the 1950’s version with Elizabeth Taylor. Not as funny, but the story line is shockingly the same. Many of the lines are word for word.

Here’s a little back story on how much I love that 1990’s movie. When I was in elementary school my dad taped the movie on VHS from tv ( same tape as mentioned above) and I watched it over and over. It was my frame of reference for how weddings could be, complete, I suppose with the family freak outs over hot dog buns. Apparently, I watched the tape so many times, I wore it out, as evidenced by tonight. When I got engaged, my mom bought me a blender as our first wedding gift. I come from ‘ a long line of over reactors’ you see.  If you don’t get that, you better watch the movie – best of luck finding it.

So tonight, as my heart aches a little bit, about the anticipated excitement and changes and loss of being a daughter in the same way, I wanted to watch that movie with my parents. And we flexed and we adapted and we did the best we could with the media that was available. I know, I know, first world problem.  What struck me, however, was that my connection to comforting movies and stories and situations aren’t what are so important. All of that will change, or has changed, or is changing, and that’s ok. What matters are the social supports and love and extension and growth that comes with creating a new family. I had my mom on one side of the couch and my dad on the other, and that’s pretty neat.  I’m so excited to move forward and be a wife. And a little bit scared, and a little bit sad too, in the most complex of ways. It’s time. There is beauty in this process.

photo 2-2