Try Softer

by Andrea Kolber


Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least.
— Goethe

This last week has been hard—like forgot if I brushed my teeth in the morning--kind of hard. And I couldn’t help but feel a bunch of feelings about that. As one who has ached for another baby, it felt wrong and a bit shameful to be in this place. But, as one who is also a consistent advocate for owning our experience, I also realize this is all part of the journey; every single gift has some difficult built in too. 

Lately, my husband and I have been reminiscing about our sweet Tia and some of the not so easy parts of when she was a baby. We remembered how challenging the weight of parenting felt. How we had also longed for her and then we were suddenly struck by the reality that parenting is the toughest, holiest thing we’d ever done.

It got me to thinking about my default, which is to be quite persistent. Once, when I was a high school basketball player, our local reporter called me tenacious. I adore this word. I love the idea of persistence and tenacity and what it embodies. But what I’ve noticed is there can be a shadow side to this gift. Sometimes I need to know when to walk away. Sometimes, as I’ve written about in the past—it’s not about leaning in harder, it’s about trying softer. It’s about recognizing if something isn’t working, we may need to re-assess how we’re doing what we’re doing.

And so I’ve come back to this idea again—partially, because I’m still getting it. I’m still figuring out how to practice presence and mindfulness and connection to my moments and people and Jesus, especially in a new season.

But today on this unseasonably warm February day, things seem crystal clear (for once), especially as it pertains to parenting. As I sit and drink my coffee by myself, for the first time in a long time, it seems to click. There are times to lean in, and there are times to back up. It's like a dance where we read the music and the rhythm. We notice and pay attention and occasionally we push to teach or explain or soothe our kiddo a bit more, and sometimes we say forget about it and go outside and do the silliest thing we can think of.

It's paying attention to the rhythm that matters. 

**

But how will I get anything get done? What if Jude never sleeps? Will Tia ever get a bath? Will I ever actually clean the house? What if? What if?

These are the types of questions that want to pop in my head. Frankly, they’re valid. But here’s where I continue to land: try softer.

We can’t ignore there are tasks to be done. Yes, bills must be paid. Yes, we need food. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But if we spend the best of ourselves on things that matter only a little, what will we have left for those things that matter much? What if, this is the exact space where the Lord meets us? What if this is what he means when he says it's not by power or might, but by (relying on) his spirit (Zechariah 4:6)?

I'm finding--again--in our spaces of surrender we have all the grace we’ll ever need.

Let's lean into that.

**

How about you? Where are you finding you need to try softer? 


Learning to Abide {Guest Post for the Glorious Table}

by Andrea Kolber


“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4 ESV)

I remember lying in bed at night as a teenager, reviewing everything I needed for the next day at school. Were the papers signed? Had I written all my projects down? Was I going to fail my test tomorrow?

My adolescent body felt anxious and tired at the same time, and the pressure would often take its toll. I would wake at 4 or 5 a.m. to ensure I had everything I needed. Then, sheepishly, I would realize my alarm hadn’t gone off and try to go back to sleep.

I spent most of my childhood trying to remain one step ahead of problems. I came by this honestly as I grew up in a loving but significantly dysfunctional home. My mom and dad both struggled with addiction and mental health issues. Based on our family system, one of the main ways I learned to deal with difficulties was to be hyper-aware of what might go wrong so I could try to stop it from happening. Or at least keep the issue from becoming severe.

Click here to keep reading over at the Glorious Table. 


In the Early Hours We Remember {On Gratitude}

by Andrea Kolber


My fingers are itching to write. It feels like it's been forever, although I know it hasn't. I suppose creating has become a form of beauty my soul now needs. 

As I sit and nurse my babe, so many thoughts come to mind. I see how loud the world is lately and angry too. I feel torn between wanting to be a change maker in the world, but knowing I'm called first to do it in my home. Again and again, I feel as though when I become overwhelmed with all the hurt and pain in our culture, God gently asks me to lean into my moments rather than the big picture. What a helpful reminder, as I’m too tired to handle much more than making sure tiny people are alive at the end of the day.

As I sit in the almost dark of early dawn, I hear Jude drinking deeply and I look forward to laying him down. For a moment though, I snuggle his cheeks and breathe in his scent. My eyes are heavy now, but I try to take a moment to remember we’ve been waiting to meet him for years.

As I hold him, I can feel how he needs me, but I remember my fiery daughter does too. Parenting is a weighty calling, certainly. As I supposed before his birth, it feels surreal how our hearts expand. I already miss the solo connection with Tia girl--and yet it feels like God allows our love to multiply too. Still, adding a life is a transition, even with heaps of love added in.

Mostly now, in my quiet moments through the day, I'm pondering how much has happened in such a short time. I’m chewing on the humility it requires to love little people well, and really, anyone well. Even now at 7 weeks postpartum, I’m still amazed at the miracle that took place bringing our little Jude into the world and how much support I need to be the parent I would like. For a personality like me, this is something I constantly need to be reminded of: I don’t have to do it alone.

As with my daughter, I'm confronted with how difficult parenting can be. And I'm faced again with the enormity of my limits and my strength. I don't mean those words with a shred of pity or arrogance. Rather, I feel grateful for the resources God has given me for this time--mostly himself.

But, also a husband who loves me well in the midst of raging postpartum hormones and little sleep. I’ve watched my mom and in-laws with their willingness to love us in this transition, and it has been a balm. We’ve experienced sweet friends who know my story--my vulnerabilities--and they check in with me often.  We’ve had folks love us through meals and gifts and presence. We’re so grateful. 

All these things keep me rooted as we navigate the hard beautiful of parenting. And so tonight, we will do it again. When my body feels weary or my heart is tired; I will call these things to mind. I will remember how I’m loved, how we’re loved.


When You Don't Want Your Word {My #OneWord365}

by Andrea Kolber


Two years ago, I started identifying a word for the year with the #OneWord365 challenge. It’s been helpful because it acts like a thesis for my year, the main idea under which I place my goals. It’s become a focus of prayer and intention throughout some interesting seasons. I’m always amazed to see how God uses the word to grow me in ways I couldn’t have seen in the beginning.

I’ve considered my word for 2017 for a few weeks now. In the early morning and middle of night feeds for my son, I’ve chewed on it. I’ve watched other folks pick their words and felt a touch envious because I simply couldn’t settle on it. As I’ve wondered and prayed, I've felt like God gave me a vision for this year, and yet I doubted it. Honestly, I didn't want this word.

And in a way, isn't that the point?

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Just the other morning, I woke up and felt so optimistic about the day. Instead of remembering I have a 3 week old baby; I attempted to clean my house, complete too many projects, create time for writing, run a ton of errands, and think I would have energy for even more later in the day.

Bless my heart.

Only then I started to feel the settling of my word:

Small.

This is the year of small for me. This is the year I continue to give myself permission to not do it all. It's not like I ever had the ability to do it all; it’s that I tried.

And so, I feel the call to a season of less not more. It's a time where I pay attention to my people and my small calling in order to love better and flourish. I've decided to say no to the frustration and energy wasted from banging my proverbial head against the wall when I attempt to live outside of what is mine.

This is my story: I am an over responsible, rigid, perfectionistic, prone to depression and anxiety person who has healed by miles but still has a marathon to go. So while I've learned how to accept my limits in many senses, a huge life transition like a newborn brings me back to my start. So again, I am learning how I need to stay small, in the best sense of the word. In the sense that I honor my make up and limits and actually live further into my calling. When I honor how deeply I need Jesus and others I am better. When I accept some days I will literally accomplish almost nothing—at least according to productivity standards--I'm actually more life giving and loving.

** 

Even now as I type this, a part of me wants a “better” word. I want something a little more glamorous. But here we are.

As I look 2017 in the eye, I find a core need is to let go of the desire to be finished, perfected and accomplished. I know someday when I look Jesus face to face, then I'll be done. Until then, I want to look at the part of myself still asking for too much and say, “sorry.” Perfection doesn’t make me valuable, my identity as beloved does.

This is my calling for the year, to be small, to steward my tiny calling well and to live out of my truest identity.