Rhythm and Rush: Notes on Being Twenty Six

Rhythm & Rush: Thoughts on Being 26 & Rolling With It

"What if we already are
Who we've been dying to become"
–Sleeping At Last, Four

My coffee is empty but the book on the table is full. Full of wise, genuine, needed words that are settling in my mind like silvery coins in deep water. 

It was timely too. A book about transitions. Short and long term. I would not have thought of transition as a long term thing until recently. Transition, I would have thought, just happens and then it’s over and new and different. But lately, it’s spanned years, so the book about such a thing was a comfort.

The past five years in particular have been so starkly different from each other, I’m surprised I am able to recognize myself and my life from one year to the next.

Different states. Different jobs. Different living spaces, clothes, music. Different restaurants & drinks. Different hopes. Different worries.

The years feel like they are passing quicker each time and no matter how many of them pass, I still feel like I’m about 19 pretending to do this adult life thing. There’s lots of things I feel like I “should” be doing at this point.

In church they ask: How are you living out your faith in your daily life? Are you sharing the gospel? Are you making disciples? 

Those two questions tend to follow the first, and I often hear them posed from people who are in full-time ministry. I, on the other hand, am in my mid twenties with a full-time job, and the way that I would answer those questions has evolved over time. They’ve been evolving again lately. I wrestle with them, and I’m not sure who’s winning.

I Guess I Haven't Learned That Yet by Shauna Niequist

I haven’t found any books yet about Christian young-adults managing life at age 26 who didn’t drop their full-time jobs to go somewhere in Africa without internet and plant churches. Not that that is bad, just entirely unrelatable for someone like me. 

The other side of the spectrum is not particularly relatable either. Especially if you’re not exactly the type to have freshly styled hair every Sunday morning. I flat out refuse to make (or consume) casseroles, and I skip the christian music radio station 99.999999% of the time in favor of 80s pop or hits from my high school years. My alone time with God consists of drowsy me on my morning commute at 6:30am. I’m less interested in babysitting in the kids ministry and a little more interested in chatting over coffee about big dreams and hopes and fears. 

Am I getting it wrong if I answer those questions in a completely different way?

Workdays and weeks pass by in a blur, and while I long for Saturday morning when I can sleep in, the new work week inevitably starts again and I find that boom it’s already Saturday again before I can fold the clean laundry. The dishwasher is clean but not empty.

I’m tired often. 

Always?
Often.

There’s simple chores like dishes and laundry and taxes and oil changes and gym workouts. There’s simple joys also like date nights and lazy mornings and apple-brown-sugar-chai drinks and birthdays and new Taylor Swift albums that I listen to on the floor with my eyes shut at midnight.

I just celebrated my first year of marriage and I am astounded by that. At how fast it’s gone. At how much of a blast it has been. I’ll try to formulate my thoughts on that at some point, but in summary, when people ask me how married life is going I give two big thumbs up and a 11/10 would recommend.

There’s moving. I’ve had five different addresses in as many years, and while I know that is just a part of the terrible 20s, I can’t get over how jarring it is to relocate your entire life annually, even if it’s just 30 minutes up the road, let alone to another city. Another state.

What does that feel like? Like holes are punched into your energy reserves each time, but you have to roll with it. Over and over. Like you’re smaller than you thought and the world is bigger than you thought. 

Like everything is new and like I still haven’t learned so many things yet.

Some days I forgive myself for that last part, and other days I don’t. But I keep bumping into people who say that they are also still making it up as they go along, and they haven’t figured “it” out yet either, and that helps. 

I’m writing a novel (which is part of why I’ve been a little scarce in this corner of the internet lately). Every year for the past three years I say that this will be the year I complete a first draft. I have to keep saying that, or I won’t make any progress. But this year has one quarter left and that seems like a very lofty goal.

Sometimes I crawl into bed at 8:45pm and there is zero chance I’m crawling out again, even if my hair really needs to be washed or the shower floor needs scrubbing. And all the while I’m supposed to drink my bodyweight in water daily. So I’m starting with just a glass because even that is hit or miss lately.

As the dust settled from our latest move, Conner started a new job which has a very different schedule than mine. I had two mornings on Friday and Saturday entirely to myself, so for the first time in months I sat down on the floor in the sunroom and did some reading. Some journaling. Some long overdue processing via paper. And it was calming and restful and restorative.

Two days later I was running on the treadmill after work and started tearing up right there in the middle of the gym. I wasn’t thinking about anything sad or emotionally heavy. I wasn’t listening to any of the sad songs I love to play way too often. Nothing bad or overly stressful happened that day that I could blame this on. And yet my nose was starting to be stuffy and my eyes traitorously red. And no amount of blinking was making the tear situation better.

I fled to the locker room and brought all my bags to my car, hoping I didn’t run into anyone I knew between the door and the car as the tears were literally dripping down my cheeks and off my chin.

What is wrong with me? What is wrong with me? 

I am not unhappy. I love the life I have. The things I’ve been describing are somewhat normal for someone my age to be dealing with…right?

Turns out, I did the math and realized I hadn’t had a good cry in almost a year. A year. For someone who needs the emotional outlet of a good cry on about a monthly basis, that shocked me. So much has changed in a year, in beautiful and better ways. But when the pace of those changes is faster than my ability to process them, processing gets paused while I roll through the next round of what else has to be done this week. Time alone with my morning coffee gets traded for more sleep. Sundays with no agenda get traded for accomplishing the stuff I don’t get done during the week. I have more caffeine and less water (if any). I am constantly at the grocery store, but sometimes only realize I’ve gone the whole day with nothing but a power bar by the time it’s nearly evening.

Perhaps those two mornings alone with my thoughts and my paper, followed by a Sunday afternoon that was spent on the couch rather than running errands, relaxed my mind enough to make space for such an outburst.

A teacher I admire recently mentioned the importance of recognizing your capacity and saying it.

I am at capacity. Meaning, I can do this. I can get all the things done. I can roll through this week and not drop a single thing. But this right here is the limit, I cannot thrive doing this long term, and if one more issue or event or task gets added, the whole thing is coming down.

I feel like I’ve been in that lane for a while. So when I finally had a weekend that was not at capacity, that was instead comfy and had extra space for sitting still and thinking thoughts, what came out was something like relief and the fit of a young child who just needs sleep.

My eyes were nearly swollen shut the next morning, but makeup is a lifesaver, and I went to work like I wasn’t a snotty red-faced mess of emotion the night before.

“I am not at all suggesting that you should say, I’m so glad this happened, because… I’m talking about being the kind of person who asks, even as you are grieving the death of many beloved things, even in the night, Who has cared for me well? Who has been kind? Where have I felt able to rest or be seen? In the middle of the darkness, where have I seen redemption or bravery or tiny bits of hope?”
–Shauna Niequist, I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet

A full exhale. It reminded me about the value of emphasizing being careful. Care-Full. Rather than Event-Full. Care-full with myself and how I choose to spend my time. Care-full with the people around me.

There are such little moments of care that help in times like that, when there is a pause in the running and you realize how sore some of your muscles are. I washed my face slowly and gently and put on socks that were buttery soft. My sister brought me a blueberry muffin. Conner draped his arm over my side as I fell asleep. I took that book with me to work to read on my lunch break instead of staring at my phone screen.

Circling back to the questions from earlier, now with the context of what life is like for me at 26, it’s hard to hear them and not interpret them as a direct assault on my time, energy, and sanity. I assume that they are asking me to spend hours of the weekend on street corners asking strangers invasive questions or volunteering in ministries throughout the week after work hours in boundary-defying “acts of service.” 

But I think my assumptions about what those “have to” look like have been too narrow. I’ve been worried that I’m not doing those extra things yet, and therefore need to add more to what I am doing in order to be living out the leveled up “on fire” version of my faith. But what if that isn’t quite the case?

How are you living out your faith in your daily life?

The air is less stifling this time of year. There’s a breeze in my hair on the weekend antagonizing my curls. I got a carwash for the first time in a year, and it felt like a personal victory. Some days like this, the burdens feel lighter. Instead of rolling through the punches, the punches lose their momentum and roll off like water. 

I listen to podcast sermons from a pastor in Oregon every day on my drive to and from work. On Saturdays I sit on the floor of my sunroom that is striped with sunlight before 11am and I write down what I am thinking in letters to God even though I know He’s heard them in my head already. I handwrite out a psalm in an old notebook beside my bed before I fall asleep.

“I see love like she’s under my roof, drinking my soup. I see love like she’s warm and we’re talking like human beings. I see love like we are two survivors on a leaky boat, together, wrapping in dry blankets.”
–Anne Lammot, Traveling Mercies

I’m humming a worship song in the elevator on my way into the office at 6:58am. When I ask about people’s weekends, I try very hard to remember what they said. I hum some more, only this time it’s folklore or something by daft punk.

Rhythm and Rush: Notes on Being Twenty Six and Rolling With ItI will not hang the word “blessed” anywhere in my home, but I will spot the favor of God hovering in my peripherals. I beam at Jesus like he’s a normal person sitting across the room, and He smiles like He just knew I’d catch the punchline, the joy, if I took a couple extra moments to notice. So I take just a few seconds and let that care fill me up, and I breathe out thank you thank you before I put the car in drive.

I scroll too much and then get frustrated when Christianity is personified in to-do lists on social media. I set the phone aside before I go to sleep and write out the next psalm.

I’m pretty sure Jesus is more interested in taking up real-estate in my heart (affection) and in my mind (attention), than in what I can accomplish for Him. 

What if the most common, yet highly praised activity for a Christian is not being useful?  What if it’s having an on-going conversation with a person you love more than you know how to express?

I think at Him (to Him) often since I know my thoughts are not hidden from Him.

Wondering what He’s up to. Saying something honest about what I want, what I’m afraid of, and what I’m grateful for, bringing up the names of the people I love. I consider Him the safest and healthiest place for those things.

I am going through the motions my mind and body need even when they don’t want to (and even when the motions are a little unconventional). I am letting people take care of me sometimes. I am trusting that a long obedience in the same direction directly includes the mundane and routine parts of my life and it is in those things that I should acknowledge His presence and good work. 

I let awe press pause on the moment as often as possible.

Are you making disciples? Are you sharing the gospel?

I think I am standing on it. Eating on it. Sleeping in it. Breathing it in. Crying on it. Running on it. Reading wrapped in it. I vacuum different patterns on it every week. I wipe the countertops clear of my lazy selfishness that accumulates and makes things sticky. He forgives me.

I am working on the little disciple in me. Learning and asking hard questions. Practicing self-control in a world where self-expression is the current craze. Practicing being kind, not just on the outside where people hear it, but on the inside where God and I hear it too. Practicing the art of cherishing when criticizing comes more naturally.

I’m catching up with a friend on the phone who used to be a neighbor and hugging my sick sister and getting coffee with an old friend on (at minimum) a monthly basis. I’m pressing my cold fingers into my husband’s arm in disbelief that he’s real, and taking deep breaths and relaxing my shoulders as many times a day as I can. 

I’m partially successful at seeing interruptions as opportunities for grace and adventure. I smile genuinely at my waitress even after she has gotten my order wrong twice, but I’m not as smiley for strangers who drive 20 below the speed limit.

I visit my family often and marvel at how nice it is to be in close proximity to people you can be  around without any titles but your first name.

When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink?
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Some plant, some water…

I am inviting people into the empty blocks on my calendar and offering a (figurative) glass of cold water in the not-so-figurative form of a cup of tea and questions about hopes and dreams and fears over a plate of brie, bread, and honey. 

Maybe in the places those empty tea cups are found, the burdens in the lives that sat there were just a little lighter for a moment. Because that’s how I feel when I acknowledge His presence with me. How others have helped me most. Being the water in the parched times when a hug and carbs and a conversation make the burdens lighter somehow. Bearing witness to the struggles, fears, and doubts and turning the volume on those things down to manageable size. 

Does it count? 

I think it counts. 

I think it all counts. 

Even the simplest of things.

Care-full. Kindness. Water. Rest. Hope.

The Salt Compass Blog by Madeleine Hagan
Rhythm and Rush: Notes on Being Twenty Six and Rolling With It

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