Tag Archives: faith

Shifting My Perspective

Property of Kristin Giuliani

September was an exhausting month. It was enlightening and beautiful. It was tedious and draining. I was challenged and stretched and asked to step out of my comfort zone. And I somehow feel simultaneously refreshed and depleted. I have a sense that I just closed a chapter in my life and am stepping into a new one. Although it’s early, I think this new chapter will be defined by unique perspectives – shifting out of autopilot and being willing to look at everything that defines me in a completely different way. I am redefining my work, how I use my skills, and how I spend my time. I can feel it. Change is coming.

 Property of Kristin Giuliani

I am someone who thrives on change – external change. I like to be a participant in changing locations, changing weather, changing activities, changing routines.

image

However, I am realizing that it’s a lot less fun when I have to initiate the change by changing something internal first. And the clear message of September is that I can start a new, exciting chapter in my life, BUT, not by first changing my circumstances. I have to change how I see my circumstances first, and look at the same old mundane things in a new way.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
That is infinitely less exciting and infinitely more challenging for me.  And even though that is the entire point of this blog, internal change in the absence of external change is hard, and I’m lazy. And unlike my sister, I still haven’t quite mastered the art of being disciplined.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
After spilling out some deep, soul-searching posts this past month, I feel myself at a bit of a loss this week.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
I am an introspective, internal-processing introvert, and much like I reach my saturation point with people, I also arrive at a point where my external words have run out. I’m sure as this new chapter inches forward, the words will come. But for now, they are hibernating.


So instead, as I step into October, I thought I could share the essence of what I feel I need to be doing through images.


You know, trying to see dishes, laundry, and onion chopping (and the tears they inevitably produce) as art rather than drudgery.

Maybe using my camera to look at my life from a different perspective will help me begin the internal shift.

Then maybe I can see the art hiding in the process of internal change, too.

And embrace it as the exciting journey toward the external change I crave.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

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The Burr Queen


I have spent the last 42 hours at beautiful, peaceful Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in northeastern Iowa. I have walked, slept, prayed, read, sketched, and avoided nearly all human contact. Aside from a few texts to check in, I have used my phone exclusively as a camera. It has been the perfect birthday gift for this extreme introvert from my awesome husband.

I feel refreshed, rested, and renewed.

And a tad bit rattled.

The silent, undistracted peace has made me realize that I have unknowingly become The Burr Queen.


A few weeks ago, we went camping with some wonderful family friends. Our 6 kids, who are collectively louder than 8 overcrowded preschools, had a blast. They ran around, created tin foil instruments, had a parade, explored and got lots of bumps and bruises tripping over guy-lines. They also ran through burrs.

All of the kids had a handful of burrs stuck to pants, socks and sleeves. But as we were getting changed for bed, I realized that one shirt was completely covered in burrs. When I questioned the owner, she told me:

I put them there, as decoration. I wanted to be The Burr Queen.

I sighed, trying not to be irritated. How could she not see what an unnecessary mess she was making! So much extra work!

Together we spent the better part of an hour removing all those tiny little burrs.


As I come to the end of my time of silence and reflection, I am ashamed to realize that I have been doing the same thing. Adding burrs to my life, slapping them on without thinking. In the midst of my life, I am proud of my burred-bedecked garments. I keep finding more to stick into the empty spaces. I think they are adding value, that they help make me happier, more successful, more peaceful, more productive, a better mom or friend or wife or Christian. Because I listen when our society says that survival mode is inevitable, that busyness is a sign of success. That burrs are a necessary part of life.

But in the end, when I have a chance to step back and look at myself without distraction, I can see they are just burrs. They snag the fabric, hide in seams, get snarled in hair, and sometimes are pushed so deep, that little pieces get left permanently behind.

The tricky thing is, burrs aren’t bad. They just don’t belong on my clothes. They belong in the ground, producing green plants and beautiful flowers.


This trip has made me realilze that it is nearly impossible for me to identify burrs while in the midst of my life. Because I am so impulsive, so easily distracted, so exhausted by human interaction, I just get caught up in and worn down by daily life. I grab at whatever is closest, whatever seems good, or whatever has worked in the past without really examining what I am doing. And what was a green sprout or blooming flower for me before, has become a burr without my even realizing it.

So I have begun the arduous process of finding and removing the burrs and putting them where they belong.

I had a lovely, inspiring conversation with Sister Carol yesterday, learning about her life and reflecting a bit on my time. She said:

It sounds like you need to make this type of retreat a regular occurrence.

Yes. I do.

On Tying Shoes

It is the dusk of my 35th birthday.

Wow. 35 years. I can see tinges of the classic “midlife crisis” creeping in. All day I found myself looking back and wondering if I have spent the last 3 1/2 decades well.

I think I can say that I am (mostly) proud of the person I have become. I have (sort of) learned to stop and think before I speak. i have matured to the point where I can (grudgingly) admit that my parents were right about many things (shhh…don’t tell my dad). I can (sometimes) admit that I was wrong.


But there is one thing I have always known about myself, but did not realize was a problem until today.

I am not a process person.

I am a results person. Unlike my sister, I do not revel in the repetitive and routine. I mean, I like to be clean, but if I had the choice between showering and pushing a “clean Kristin” button, I would choose the button every time. For me, the process is just the means that get me to the results.

It is not that I don’t recognize the importance of process, of how process impacts results. I took ballet for 12 years, and ballet is all process. How you learn and practice your movements determine how well you can perform. The way you move your body into each position is as important as the position itself. Quality process equals quality results.

I know process is important, but I just hate having to do it.

This summer, we made the brave idiotic decision to ditch the velcro and purchase tie shoes for our 3 and 4 1/2 year olds.

Kristin! What were you thinking?!

I know.

Honestly, I’m not sure what possessed me to do it. I think the girls told me they really wanted tie shoes and I thought, “Wow! How mature of them! I should encourage this!” So with visions of my prodigy preschoolers tying shoes themselves flashing in my brain, they were purchased and brought home.

My positive enthusiasm lasted for about 3 days before I realized that Lidia did not have the dexterity to tie her shoes yet and Madeline was just way, way, way too slow. Most mornings, we left the house with both girls crying and me screaming to just “grab those (mumble under breath) shoes and don’t you dare try to tie them in the car and get them all tangled up and I will just have to tie them when we get to where we are going.”

Over the past several weeks, there has been a recurrent theme. In conversations. In prayer time. In watching an amazing artist chronicle the creation of her works. In the post on how you respond when life changes…or doesn’t.

The message is the same:

The process is not just important because it gets you results. The process is important because it is a result in and of itself.   

So this morning, as we were getting ready to go, I sat down with Madeline to help her tie her shoes. I stopped, took a breath and really paid attention to what I was doing. As Madeline tied her first shoe, I watched how the muscles for fine motor skills were honed as her tiny fingers had to work really hard to correctly grasp and twist and pinch the strings just right. I noticed how she stopped everything else and really concentrated on what she was doing. I marveled at how she handled the frustration of dropping a lace by closing her eyes, taking a deep breath and trying again.

Strength. Concentration. Perseverance. Patience. All the things needed to climb giant rope ladders at a playground, have healthy friendships, and succeed in the future. All this gained from the stupid process of tying one stupid shoe.

Then, as I tied her second shoe (because, really, preschool shoe tying is SO SLOW), I took the opportunity to look right into her eyes down at her level and smile. She flashed an enormous, rare, giddy smile, said, “I love you, mom,” and gave me a big bear hug.

Wow. So much better than screaming and crying.

This. This is what I need to work on during the next 35 years. 

Ugh. But it is so hard for me.

I need to take lessons from Nick. You see, I am married to an extreme process person. Nick is actually an ancient Japanese man born into a modern American body. Results are important to him, but it is the process, the howthat gives him joy. He becomes alive doing all the tedious things that would drive me crazy: gardening, cooking, practicing scales on his guitar, shaving with a straight razor, fitting a hearing aid. Nick graduated with a Japan Studies concentration in college and he tells me that the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, Chado, epitomizes traditional Japanese culture. People would spend their entire lives working to fully engage in and master the process of their craft. The beauty and joy lie not just in the end result, but in the journey of getting there. If you have ever read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you can hear this undercurrent running through her words.


As I thought through this today, I realized that this is why this phase of my life is one of the most challenging. So much of what I do is purely process. The changes and results of the work I am doing with the girls are either so far in the future, are imperceptibly small or are so short lived, that I often feel like I am achieving no results at all.

I hear the platitude “enjoy the journey” all the time, but I never really grasped the depth of what that means in my day to day life before today. If I never do more than put up with the process while waiting for results, I will have missed my life. Because nearly all of life is just that, a series of processes that refine us and make us into who we are. The how is not just the how. The how is also the what.

The process is not just important because of the result it produces. It is important in itself. Because of what you learn. Because of who you become. Because it can be enjoyable, fulfilling and beautiful. The process is the result. The process is the now.

So, on the dusk of my 35th birthday, I make my quasi-midlife resolution. Much like Brother Lawrence that Laura just wrote about, I will seek to find enjoyment, beauty and appreciation for the tedious, mind-numbing processes that make up life. I will listen for God’s whisper in the common and the mundane.

It will probably take me the next 35 years to even start to scratch the surface. Because by later this afternoon, as we were onto the third iteration of putting on and tying the shoes to get somewhere, I was back to the screaming and crying routine.

Sigh.