What if you realized, suddenly one day, while the snow was falling and all that you could think of was running away; that you only get one life. You only get this one chance to live to your fullest potential. You only get one chance to show your kids how to follow their hearts, and one shot to actually follow your own. One life to feel the mud beneath your feet and see the sky-bluer than blue-above your head. What if, when you realized all of this, you discovered that the place where you are is not really the place your heart and soul long for.
What would you do?
Would you change it? Would you pull up your roots and pack up your car and would you drive headlong into the wildness that seems to call to you when you sleep? Would you see the immense risk in front of you and lean into it fully and completely, not seeing the crazy difficulties, but only the great satisfaction that could come from jumping? Would you risk all of the comfort and safety and normal that you exist in and just go?
Could you do it?
What would you bring along? Who would you pray would come with you? Where would you go first? What would you miss not at all? Would you even go? Or have you crafted the place where you are into the perfect place for you and yours? Are you you where you are? Is this place where you survive the right place for your very soul? Can a place really bring about happiness?
It is in me to run. To drive the back roads till the sun sets and rises again. The cold and the darkness and the snow are weighing heavy on me this day. Perhaps once spring actually arrives I will have less desire to follow my heart out to the ocean. Won’t that be sad? When you know the cry of your own heart but don’t follow it, don’t you feel as if you’re letting yourself down a little? Even if the thing that cries from the deepest part of your soul feels impossible…isn’t being stuck more so?
Every choice we have made has led us to here. Maybe it’s time for a new choice?
Why don’t we run after what is the meaning of our life? Run from our comfort in what we have become accustomed to? I’m sitting right there today. While I see all of the difficulties and hardships and sadness’s that could accompany the big-enough-to-matter-change, I’m trying to also see that I may never feel peaceful if I stay in my relative comfort.
So what to do? Stay and be cold and sad but comfortable…or go. Go and be scared and surprised and lost to all that is normal and American-dream-worthy? I’m still not sure, comfort has a shockingly hard pull.
I feel like the devil might be attacking me. Can I write that sentence? Will my people think I am crazy? I’m worried that most of you will think just that, but after yesterday, I feel the attacks getting stronger and I’m unsure what else it could be.
I’ve heard it before, that the devil doesn’t worry about you when you’re not doing kindom work. He doesn’t throw all he has at you if you’re not on a close walk with God. I think that’s probably mostly true. There are points of my life where I was pretty far from God where I remember feeling that everything was going just fine. And there are other times where I was going to church and doing the correct religious things, but it was mostly just an act I was carrying out, not a true relationship with my Savior, and I dont remember there being much difficulty at those times.
For over eleven years now I have made a very conscious choice to walk closely with God. That walk went from worship every Sunday, serving weekly in our church, kids in youth group to feeling the pull away from the modern American version of church. Even as I left the church, such as it was, I have still walked very closely with God.
Let me be clear, my church was a good one. The people I knew loved God, gave of their time and skills and finances, the messages were Biblically based, they practiced hospitality in a way that only a well-off congregation can. They do a lot of good in their community and in the world. They did a lot of good for and in me. But I sat in my seat on Sunday and I heard it; “I am not here.”. I wasn’t really sure what to do with that information. What I was sure of was that this was not the place for me anymore.
We tried a few other churches, a few other youth groups, but I felt nothing. The intention to do good, to serve God and His people is there, in the church body, I know it is. But I would look around and see the people in the church living these “easy” lives and I would wonder how I fit in, how the broken and the hurting and the poor and the sick and destitute fit into this church body. Truth was every time I looked I saw that these people were simply a project for the church. They weren’t being ushered up the aisles on Sunday morning, they were “out there”, someone for us to help but not bring too close…and that bothered me.
This wasn’t intended to be a post about me leaving the church, but in leaving the physical building and body of what the Westernized church has become, I found a closer walk with Christ and since then I have felt the devil on all sides. Some people tell me I feel this press because I’m not going to church. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer over this and I will disagree with that assertion.
I believe that by leaving the church I was able to step forward on my walk with God.
I’m not encouraging anyone to leave their church, you need to do what you feel led to do, but for me, my days are more filled with Him who sent me. God is so much more present in our lives. I pray constantly day and night, I beg for Him to come to those who need Him. I model (to the best of my ability) Christ’s love and servant heart to my children, to my sweet husband, to my friends.
If you know me and you see good in me, I counter that you see God through me.
As this closeness to God has increased, especially in this last year of global pandemic and the insanity that has come with it, I have gone deeper in prayer than I ever have before, I have walked more and more closely with God and I firmly believe that this is why the devil is attacking me. Whether you think I’m crazy for that or not is on you.
There has been a lot of hard for all of us in this year, I know. We all see these hardships through our own lens, I know. For my family the things that are hard have been targeted to go straight to my heart it seems. They are the exact difficulties that make my anxiety accute and my sadness deepen. I have been mostly unable to pull myself out of this cycle of working through my depression. Everytime I have climbed close to the light something else happens which drops me back a rung on the ladder. It is frustrating.
Through prayer I have come to believe that this is no coincidence, the devil certainly knows that which will hurt me most and is progressively building his attacks against me. Trying to break me. To get me to cry out against my God. To leave Him since He is doing so little to help me…..this is for sure one way I could see it.
Last night I so badly wanted to make a list of all the shity things that have happened in the last six months or so. I began that list in my mind and, thankfully, I quickly heard God’s voice redirecting me. Gratitude is a practice that I keep as one my few daily rituals, it was easy to see that listing the bad would not help me to get out of this cycle, rather how by condemning the devil-the root of these bad situations and circumstances- I could break free of this weighted chain dragging me down.
I needed a cleansing fire.
I needed a cleansing fire to break free of all of these annoyances, struggles, difficulties. And God gave it.
At the end of another seemingly impossible day here on our new patch of land, I was reminded by God’s gentle voice that there is more to come, but that it will be good from here on out. While that seems kinda hard to believe after so many months of being beaten back, I am choosing to do just that. Going forward, the gifts will be good, and the hardships will be handled.
I lay awake last night around one AM, praying for a few of the people on my heart at that hour. While I struggle with Easter as a “holiday”, and even with how the church remembers the death and resurrection of Christ, even I can feel the connection. This feeling placed in me of newness, of beginning again, of the old passing away. This resurrection of new life in me. I will begin again this morning, believing that what is to come in my life, in the lives of those I love, is for God’s good and is born of it.
The devil can continue to push and he may do so, but I know whose I am and I will not be tempted past what I can endure through Christ. Praying for you all, as always this Resurrection Sunday.
I’ve read a lot of words discussing God’s silence in our lives. I’ve sat in the darkness and wondered over why He wouldn’t answer me, why He isn’t present or visible in any number of seasons. I’ll be honest, I’ve felt the accute loss of not hearing His voice. I’ve asked a lot of questions of God over the years and I have cried out my “why God??” moments in the darkness.
A number of years ago I was given a reminder, that in all pieces of music there are moments of rest. I like this because it is an easy visual for me. When I am not hearing God’s voice clearly I likely need a rest, not from Him, but from my worry or my hurt or my frustration. I need some time from focusing on my struggle. When I realize that God is not close now, I no longer wonder where is He? Rather, what it is that I’ve given more importance to than Him.
Have you heard the story about how men go up to the mountaintop to commune with their Heavenly Father, but He comes to women right where they are, at the well, in their daily lives? It’s circulated through my social media a few times and has served as a good reminder to me that God enters into life with me daily (not that he doesn’t do this for men, I just enjoy the relational aspect of this story) I don’t have to go searching for Him because He is right here.
When I think about God being right here it is easier for me to understand His sometimes-silence. It’s loud here! There is so much screaming for my attention. Chores, meals, children, sweet husband, my own wants, and the never ending to-do list. How can I expect God to squeeze in there with kind reminders or gentle redirecting or valuable teaching? And so because my focus is on all of the things and not Him, He is quiet. His silence is what reminds me to refocus and it is the lack of God’s voice that reminds me to rest so that I may hear Him again.
Rest has been a continuous concept over the past couple of weeks. People keep bringing it up to me as if I don’t know that my body is tired, my soul is worn thin, my spirit deflated. I do, okay? I know. I know that carrying what I have been for these past months has taken it’s toll on my body and my mind. That the weight of it has allowed the anxiety to gain a foothold in my heart, a place I’d felt I had successfully banished it from for good. Believe me, I know.
I know and so I sit in the quiet of the early morning and count off thanks in my journal. I read and reread my Bible, searching to hear what God wants for me and from me. I know and so at the end of the day I crawl into my bed and sob. I let the tears come, cleansing the ache of loss and terror of anxiety away…for a time. I know and so I apologize to my children when I am impatient, I beg grace from my sweet husband when I just can not even do one more task, I message a friend telling them of my frustrations or sadness or fear. I know and so I do.
Do you see that? I didn’t get that before this morning. I know I need to rest, to be present in the stillness of God but instead I do all of these things. Even my prayer time is spent calling out to Him, asking Him for something, begging for Him to give… I had forgotten. Forgotten that being still in His presence means actually waiting on Him. Without an agenda. Trusting His will to be good, whatever it is, and in whatever time it should come. Being open to hear His word in my heart requires me to let Him silence the world around me.
I have to be willing to stop doing.
A reset then. We’re nearing the end of the Lenten season, entering into Holy week. The Passover Lamb has been slain and we wait. There are three full days and three full nights of silence while Christ descended into hell for me, for you. This is the ultimate reminder. Sometimes God is silent because He is doing the hard thing, the impossible thing. Though I can not see what that work is yet, though I can not hear His voice right now, though I may not feel His presence in this moment, He is at work, saving me over and over again in that one moment from my sin and my ignorance. I will not doubt that He has me in mind, even when I can’t hear His voice, and this brings something I have been lacking, an unusual peace enters into an overwhelmed heart.
I need not do anything. He has done it all. The battles I fight are meaningless, He has won the day. The doing, the striving, the fear and the worry and the ache can all be laid down. It is finished.
The tears are flowing early this morning. Knowing what was given so that I could be a momma and a wife and a good friend…what was given so that I could simply be loved and held, it overwhelms the stillness of my heart and startles me with its message. It asks one thing only.
I went back and read something I had written recently. I was sort of dumbstruck by how it was all laid out and tied together and perfect for where I’m at right now…sometimes I am amazed that God has given me the ability to string sentences together. I will occasionally reread something and forget that I wrote it. I mean, I know that I’m not changing anyone’s life, save my own, with these thoughts scratched out on paper, but I feel good about my writing.
Maybe this seems proud or boastful, I suppose it is a little. It’s good to have something that I feel like I do well though. The truth is, most of the things in my life I’m okay at. It’s like my sourdough, try to follow this with me…
I received a sourdough starter from a kind friend last Spring when there was no yeast to be had, thanks pandemic. I’ve managed to keep it alive and not a moldy jar of rot-soup for nearly a year now. I’ve baked a lot of bread in that year and made a lot of treats with my discard and I even took my starter camping. So, I’ve kept it alive and I bake with it regularly. Yay me. But really? The hooch forms almost weekly and I nurse the bacteria back to health. The bread gets baked as we run out, not when the starter is airy and bubbly, so the rise is rarely great in my dough. Sometimes, okay often, I forget a bowl or two of dough on the counter overnight and hope for the best as I dump it into a hot kettle at five AM. But the people always love the fresh bread. They devour the cinnamon rolls and sweet breads, they’ve even learned to bake some of these treats.
So my sourdough-ing is what I would call half-assed. Could I do better? Oh my gosh yes. Am I going to? Probably not anytime soon. It’s good enough. Why would I put more effort into it? This is the story of my days. Things get done, and they are pretty good, and that’s enough.
I feel like this is how my writing should be perceived as well. I typically type out all of my thoughts quickly before any of the children decide to wake for the day. I rarely have time for much editing or thinking about what I’ve had to say. I hit the “publish” button before I can change my mind about saving the rambling, half-crazed thoughts I’ve shared. Sometimes this is the case with my writing; I’ll go back and wonder how this was a coherent thought and why on earth I posted it.
Honestly though? Most of the time the things I’ve written have helped me when I’ve gone back to them. I already know that my writing is for me, though I am led to share these thoughts with the few of you who gather here. Writing is how I process the ache and the hurt and my tears and also how I acknowledge and celebrate my joy. While the ramblings may not always be sensical (we’re pretending that’s a word this morning), they always help me. By getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper they feel more real, and are less intimidating.
This morning I am reminding myself that it’s okay to write for the sake of writing. Not every shared thought needs to make others feel good or help them on their journey, the words can be just for me. The overflow of internal dialouge doesn’t always need to have deep meaning, this can just be a place to let those thoughts overflow. If the words I share are helpful or meaningful to someone else I feel like that’s an added blessing of sharing, but they are not the main reason I write.
Well, this has been quite the incoherent ramble…see, I’m trying to convince myself that the writing is good for me. That it is at least as helpful as a therapist, because I’ve been wondering if I should talk to someone who can help. This years anniversary of my brother’s passing hasn’t followed my typical pattern, and though I know why this year is different I’m still struggling. Though I’ve been resting at Christ’s feet I still feel the overwhelm and can’t get out from under it. The sadness that is plaguing me won’t let up, but on the couple of days I’ve spent time writing, I’ve been less-sad. The tears have not come as easily or as often if I take this time to think things through on paper.
This is true. The writing does help.
Is there something that saves you from the ache? What is that thing that feeds your soul and lessens the sadness? If you’re not sure, I encourage you to find it. It will take work, but really? It’s okay to half-ass it if that’s what it takes to get started. Because it can’t help at all, if you don’t do it at all. And seeing it help a little may encourage you to give more to it when you can. Praying for a few of you who are struggling as I sit in the quiet of this early day, there is rest for you, I can see it.
Last I mentioned, things were hard out here. I was so sure that this move was the right thing for our family and that God would use it to help ease a few of the struggles we were having as a family. In a way I was right, He has had His hand in this placement, I so easily forget that God bringing about what is good is not always smooth or easy or pleasant for me. Often these changes are hard. That’s where we’re at now; in the clearing of what was less than God had for us. It is a damned hard place to be.
I need to focus on the good for as long as I can this morning. See, the overwhelm of the hard is spiking my anxiety, causing days of tears and nights filled with well, not sleep. The good though, it’s here. I’m going to spend a moment listing it out, in the hope that it will get me through this day. And, maybe, you’ll see your own good even in the hard because you spent a minute with me. Hear me when I say that the good does not outweigh the hard. If you’re in a season of difficulty I will not minimize that for you. Some of life pushes us to the brink of our sanity or tolerance or ability, this is why we need each other, this is why we are better together. If you’re in that season…I hope you feel my presence right along side you, you are not alone.
A little of my good, or what’s getting me through:
There has been much more outside time. Days spent in late winter sunshine have helped a tiny to sleep, which allows me to sleep better. The wider outdoors have allowed me to have genuine joy in simply being. Wandering the woods and setting up a garden have opened my eyes again to the small, the often unseen. The children will, occasionally, disappear into the trees. This is all I’ve ever wanted for them – to be out for hours at a time, no agenda, no plan, no oversight – I think, that if I’m quiet about it, they will do this more and more often as the daylight lengthens. There are things I want for the outside, trees and seeds, tools and equipment. Having this space has allowed me to ask for these things and has allowed others to provide them to me, this is something I have not been great at; always a happy helper, not a great receiver of help. This is growth in me and I recognize it and am grateful. There is more, much more, that I could credit to the sunshine and dirt on my knees, but I’ll hold it close for now.
There has been more togetherness. We cut our inside space by quite a bit with this move. I can’t recall what the square footage loss was from our last home to here, but it is significant and deliberate. We do most our indoor life together, the children are close at hand at all times. While sometimes this can add stress, I remind myself frequently how much I wanted us to grow closer as a family. Without indoor rooms to escape to we deliberately provide actual space for each other when it is needed. We have had to work through some hard things, because we could not escape them by walking away. This has been a good lesson for us all, though a tough one. I yell less, because we are all right here, there is no need for shouting. I see the relationships between my children deepening and my heart cries out with joy and a simple prayer that this would last.
Laughter. This one has been tempered with a lot of tears on my part. For reasons known only to God I have needed to cry a lot over the last few months, but I have also laughed. One of my sweet husband’s best traits is his ability to make me laugh. He truly knows just what to say to start me giggling. My children have latched on to this and they become more silly, more sarcastic, more humorous seemingly by the day. They all bring me so much laughter, so many smiles and add a lightness to our days that I don’t know how to be adequately grateful for. The children also laugh together sharing inside jokes and stories with one another. I love this to no end.
Responsibility. This one I look to my children and see clearly. I have allowed them to step into more mature roles with this new house. They have a different accountability than they did before, and while the differences are small right now, I see them stepping up and can believe that they are ready for more. The Summer months will push them past their comfort levels I believe and I am excited to see how they grow into the responsibilities I have planned for them.
Over the last couple of days I have felt the responsibility to care for myself deepen. I have dealt with anxiety for, well, a long time, and I have my tricks and secrets to manage it. I’ve been working those for several months now and the hard keeps piling on, with little opportunity to work through one thing before another struggle is added to the heap. I have deliberately and consciously laid these hardships at the feet of Jesus. I believe that He has taken this load from me, that He never intended me to carry all of this, that I am meant to walk lightly, to be light. I believe this deeply, it is, in fact, at the core of who I believe God is and how He loves me. I also believe that the devil is actively at work in our lives, he is trying to steal us away from the One who made us. I know the evil one is the source my anxiety springs from. The responsibility tie-in here is that I am being over-powered by this evil. I see it, I know that I am not strong enough, even with all of my tricks and plans, to cast him off this time. I know that I have a responsibility to myself and that I need help. I have asked a few close friends to pray and I feel their prayers at work. I have opened up about how I am struggling to a couple of you and have recently asked you to hold me accountable for different things. I have made commitments to myself, like sitting here scratching these words out. Being responsible to myself in this way is new and requires a constant awareness to not let this plate fall.
This list is not long, but it is good. It is honest, and feels like the right way to begin warding off this negative, this hard, this evil that seeps into my heart. I’ll need reminders, I’m sure. I don’t feel the tears pricking the corners of my eyes right now though and that is a first in more than a handful of days. The space I’m in will need all of this goodness. There is room for it, next to the hard. In laying down so much of the other and choosing not to pick it back up, I can see how God is holding me too, not just all of my stuff. This is the thing I needed, why I was sitting here tapping out sentences. He holds me, and when I can see that, I am truly light.
Grief. It’s individual to each one of us, yet it is a shared emotion. We try to walk the path it leads us down with strength I suppose. Never really knowing what will be waiting around the next bend, what will knock us back on our ass or who might help us up. I am no expert on grief, but I have walked in it’s darkness. I have fallen back and prayed for someone to come along to help me take even one small step forward. When I have wandered with grief by my side I’ve found that even that one small step is a step toward the light, though it may only be a glimmer, and far off down the path.
I’ve struggled to decide whether or not I should share this story…right now I’m sitting with “don’t”, while trying to decide if putting the words out there would help anyone or if they would help me to get them out of my head.
This is it for me. The week of my deepest sadness, the days of my most difficult memories, the hours leading up to the harshest ache. Can I share that publicly? Should I? Aside from all of the stupid shit I’ve done that has hurt people, hurt me. Aside from all of the times when my heart has broken or when my mind has fractured to contain the insanity I must deal with, this next string of days contains the most difficult choices I’ve ever made.
Nah, I won’t publish this one. As I sit and think back at the days, the tears come free and easy. There is no soundtrack to these days, only a great silence, a hurried press that seems to crush the air right out of me. There are flashes of memory that I can see so clearly even through my years-later-tears, that my breath catches in my chest . Moments where my heart literally pounds so hard that it makes my head ache. In these days leading to my personal moment of greatest grief my heart and mind seemingly shatter, and yet, as happened all of those years ago, the world screams; “carry on”.
There is no stopping. There is no chance to get off and sit on a bench while you catch your breath. When time immortal decided to stop for me I found that everyone else just kept on going. Perhaps you’ve learned this too. The worst has happened, your heart has broken, your world has seemingly ended…yet you walk outside and the sun is still shining, the wind is still blowing, the snow is still falling. Worse yet? Cars are still flying down the freeway! Bills still need to be paid! Pipes still burst! Had I been then the woman I am now I would have stood at the graveside and screamed. I would have cried out so loudly it would have stopped this damned world from it’s spinning. Just a moment in the still quiet air to inhale the fresh scent of pine. Maybe a day to sit in the snow and the slush at the graveside, not feeling as the frostbite settles in. Perhaps a week or two to ease in to the new way of the world’s spinning. Why is there no reintroduction period after deepest loss?
Yet there it is, isn’t it? I said it, in that last paragraph, did you catch it? “If I had been the woman then that I am now…”. Could I be the woman I am now if I hadn’t gone through the world’s ending? If I hadn’t seen time stop and pick up again on a different timeline would I be here, tapping out on these keys? Would I have ever have found the strength buried inside of me to leave the dark emptiness and the brokenness in my first marriage if I hadn’t known that time will stop again for me? Would I have ever had the courage to suggest we move away from the place I detest but the people I love if I had not already felt the deepest loss I will ever feel?
I know with aching certainty that I would not be here.
There is no possible way a person does not change who they are when faced with deepest loss. Or rather; there is no way a person does not find out who they fundamentally are when faced with deepest loss. It simply is not possible. In looking back I know that I would have made the same impossible decisions. I would have held my mother up as her strongest child and I would have not broken down with weeping until one of the strongest men I ever knew walked into the church that morning. I also see the shift in myself begin to take hold at this time.
True, it began a year or more before, but the heart change came with this loss. Knowing at that moment that I did not want to live a life where every day was like the one before, filled with belittling and maltreatment and fear. Or worse, filled with nothing; no passion, no excitement, no greatness. Knowing that while many people choose to never make a change, to stay where and who they are for safety’s sake, I could not be one of those people for even one more day. I began seeking a chance.
Because of this loss I know that I parent a little differently. I know that I “human” a little differently. I have this boy in the back of my mind at all times laughing and joy-filled… and then not. I know how quickly it can all be taken away. I know how quickly the joy can be pulled away. While I have been through it myself I still feel it is a pain I can not even fathom. If I focus too closely on the emotion I can not breathe. If I sit too still in the ache, the sobbing begins and I fear I may not be able to make it stop. The heartbreak of it is still raw and intense and now it comes at me from so many new angles.
I was a “sister” then, though I felt much like his mother for a lot of years. Now I am a mother and I can’t even let my mind go there for I fear I would not be able to come back with my sanity intact. I also have an oldest daughter who has a little brother and when I think of how the ache would feel for her my soul seems to split in two pieces. I am a wife, well I was then too, but I’m better at it now I think, at least I am a healthier one. I see how the loss would affect the man who struggled to be a good father to him. The man who struggled to be a father at all to him. Being the me I am now, makes all of the understanding quite overwhelming. It does not help me to know how I would feel in all of these different roles, it only breaks my heart in myriad new ways.
I am always wondering at the reasons I run, or the reasons I have run. I know it goes deeper than this string of days from thirteen years ago. I know it is rooted in how my childhood unfolded. I know that my choices in my early adulthood set me on my way. But this, the week I enter into every year on this day, this is more profound than any other single moment in my life. Even without the messed-up-edness that is my life experience, even with all of the situations you could look upon and say, “yep, that’s a big part of her why…”. The loss of my baby brother is the catalyst for change in me. It is my “No longer will I be afraid. No longer will I be ashamed. No longer will I be silent.”. It is also the deepest ache in my entire being and I wish to the heavens that it could be taken away.
I had thought I would chronicle our move and the early days in our new home. I planned to scratch out all of the excitement and adventure of getting out of town, into the country. I had good intentions to share with my people this new path we are on…but life, man.
In late October we decided that we really did want to move out of town. There was just so much. Dogs barking, sirens wailing, the lack of safety we felt was coming closer to our home and family were all contributing factors. We wanted to be away from all of that. We also have longed for a space to garden big, to live more sustainably, to let the children run freely. And so, we left.
We are home again now. We have been in this new space for one month, though it feels as though we moved in just yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once. So much has happened since November that I fear there is no way to get it all out, to share it all in an acceptable number of words here with you. Only a handful of people have been in on all that has gone into the last three months, I am so grateful for them.
So, what should I share here? The normal stresses of moving over the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year holiday season? The additional headaches over moving during the Covid situation we find ourselves in and how that affected my sweet husband’s job and his ability to be physically and mentally available during this move? The amazing kindness of good friends who helped box and lift, who lent trailers, and took care of my kids, who gave up weekends and garden space.
Should I tell about the immediate needs once we moved in? About the radon, the water softener, a commuter car? Or, the way it feels homey here, but not really like my home yet. How easy it has been to settle into a new rhythm in this place, yet the rhythm feels like it has too strong of a beat behind it.
The emotional toll these past few months have taken has reminded me of the days when my anxiety was unchecked and would rage through my body, creating a constant state of fear. Thankfully it has just been a glimpse back at those days, not a full returning to them. I have been easily able to lay all of the weight of this at the feet of my Lord, this time. Asking a few close friends to pray allowed me to sleep and provided the comfort I needed when I could not set down those last heavy burdens on my own. I look at others in my circle and I see how much more they are struggling than me, and for a moment I think that I should not be complaining or that I should be able to handle what is in front of me, because it isn’t as much or as hard or as terrible, as what someone else is going through.
Thankfully, I know now that I can be overwhelmed by all of this and that it doesn’t need to be compared to anyone else’s hardship. The measuring stick does not need to come out to see if I am struggling well enough under what is in front of me. I need only lay it all down. Most of it isn’t mine to carry anyhow. I remind myself of this often; that I could and have held it together under much more difficult situations, that I don’t need to endure any of this alone, that Jesus is enough for this day.
We have felt God’s hand of blessing in an immense way over these past three months. The way the sale of our house came together perfectly with the purchase of our new home. The friends who were here at all of the right times. The safety and protection in the moments when things have gone terrifyingly wrong. Financially we continue to know that we are being provided for. We have seen His goodness be poured out for us not just in physical ways or in the ways you might consider blessings.
His provision is apparent to me. I am thankful for the physical needs God has met for my family, but more than that I am simply thankful for Him and that He cares about me at all.
I hesitate to even mention in this post how my sweet husband was taken to the hospital two weeks ago and the terror that came with that. Or how his car was totaled while sitting in his parking lot just ten days after we bought it. How I woke up at two AM this morning with the teensy and had no water at the tap. These things don’t feel like blessings or like God is providing for us, they feel kinda scary and too hard and too much for me to handle. But just there is the provision. It is easy to miss, you have to be willing to see it.
In knowing that I am not enough to handle this complete chaos I allow my Father in heaven to handle it all for me. In bringing it to Him I allow Him to save me from all of the anxiety and worry and outright fear that pulse at the door of my heart. The good and the hard are not separate experiences, they both lead me back to the heart of my Creator. I am grateful for all of it. Knowing that God is right here in the everyday crazy is comforting and reassuring. Even though it doesn’t seem to make things less crazy, that comfort is what carries me through.
Perhaps I will write about some of these events in more detail one day soon. Maybe I’ll keep them close and start again with what comes to us next. I’d actually really love to write about new adventures over demolished cars or moving a garden in December, but, as you probably know, this is how I process my life and so there’s a good chance I’ll write out most of these stories, even if they never see the publishing light of day.
For now, for this day, may you stay warm, may you know that you are cared for, and please, wish me luck as I go attempt to repair my well pump…
The words come slower as the world spins fast. Even as I work and plan to not be overwhelmed by all that Advent has to offer, even in this season where so much has been taken from us, somehow even now…I find myself breathing deep to slow the minutes from rushing by. Consciously choosing to slow down and just do this next thing with grace and love.
It is not easy for me. Well, I am not fast, I live a decidedly slow life, deliberately choosing quiet, calm, rest, less, most of the time. But I do want to check the boxes and serve and meet needs and light up little faces, not just in this season, but especially so. I want to do all of the things, but I choose to just do the next thing.
Often the next thing is interupted by a child needing something or wanting me and I try so hard to remember that this, this everyday life, is the most important thing. Because so many other activities call to me it’s easy to forget. This mothering; I get to do it and I choose to do it and I have to remind myself of that when the world tells me so many other things are important.
These children, this family, my sweet husband. I am here with the purpose of serving them, raising them well, being a friend and good listener. It’s easy to think those things are not as important as serving outside my family or working or doing any of the *other* that I could be putting effort into. God has told me enough times though, I have heard Him well enough to know, that this is why I am here. To know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. I do all of this by loving my husband and my children, by serving them and knowing their hearts. I no longer doubt my place, but seek to fully live into it. The world can not sway me from this belief.
I let the interruptions come. Sometimes I still yell, sometimes I stomp my feet. More and more I am realizing that this life is not mine. I am not here to find my own deepest joy, I’m here to bring the joy of knowing Christ to the loves of my life. I trust that God will provide for my joy in His perfect time, knowing that I may wait a lifetime to see it fulfilled. He has given me a servant heart, I should use it to the fullest.
Sleep comes at the end of everyday, even though the list is still long and there is still so much to be done. Today was full of good, today we expanded our hearts and gave as we could, we didn’t rush through the gifting or the running or the offering and we were able to do more than I hoped for. As I lay my head down asking for rest, I know that in the pouring out today, I have been filled up. As I thank God for this day, I pray that the children I brought along know what good we did and that they carry the memory of it into their lives and continue with it as often as they can.
I’m so thankful for this knowledge, for the understanding I’ve been given of myself. Exhaustion overtakes and I close my eyes, praying for each one of you, that the needs of others that you can meet, you will. That the needs you have will be met. And that at the end of each day, rest would come to you and bring peace.
I used to sit here each morning scratching out thoughts on a page. Not looking for acceptance, but seeking to hear my own soul more clearly. I haven’t come to this place in quite some time, not that I don’t still have questions to wonder aloud over. Rather, the being simply still was too much amidst the global pandemic and fear mongering. I had thought that the writing was good for me, enabled me to get my thoughts out of my head, work through them bit by bit, and I would say that I don’t doubt that process even now.
My routine had to change though.
Much like yours did I am sure. And so I began, in the early morning hours before my children awoke I would read all of the news articles I could, trying to understand as much as I could. Looking for reassurance in the numbers or potential outcomes. As I was forced home at the end of winter with no friends to visit, no homeschool meetups, not even grocery shopping was “allowed”. My only link to friends and family was social media, something I will admit is not good for my mental health. It pulled me in with cute baby pictures, but then led me down ever-spiraling rabbit holes of conspiracy theories. I could not pick up my phone or sit down at my laptop without feeling my heart rate increase at the fear that was surely waiting on the other side of my device.
Fortunately, anxiety and I are old friends.
I recognized it and what was causing it pretty quickly. I was able to insist I leave my phone on the charger most mornings, that I not open my laptop until the children had spilled their raucous energy into our family space. I’ll admit how hard it was to not know what was going on. I wanted the information; how many people had died, how quickly the virus was spreading, I needed to know how afraid I should be. Except I really, really didn’t.
There were a few days where I had to ask my sweet husband to take my phone from me. A realization early on told me that this routine would not be sustainable. My days could not continue in this overwhelm of information and input outside of my control.
Everything was outside of my control. When I focused on those words I knew that “control” could not be where I swung the pendulum from, yet “out of control” seemed to add only more fear. “Outside” though…that was a word I could start with, and so I did.
Most of my days since mid-March have been spent outdoors. I have dug into the earth while the ground was still cold and heavy and wet and I have felt the weight the soil held deep in my own soul. I divided raspberry beds on a damp, cool, misty morning. Far too early or not nearly late enough in the year to do such a thing. As the brambles scraped my skin and the fog lay around me I knew the quiet sharpness and dense peace of the world was still here, just as it has always been. I hauled mulch and moved plants, I ensured the greenhouse stayed warm and the seedlings grew strong. I built, and rebuilt, a coldframe, and have a better plan for it for next spring.
I stayed busy.
You see, writing keeps my mind hyper-focused on my problem or my concern. That was not what I needed. I could do nothing about Covid-19. There was no real way for me to solve this problem, even for my own family. I needed to physically wade through it. So many friends tried to help, wanting me to Zoom chat or Facetime or come to other online dates. I’ll admit the thought of those interactions still fills me with dread. If that becomes the norm I will have to fail yet again at being normal, because I despise the online interactions. What helped (helps) me most was staying busy. Not as a coping mechanism, please understand. I needed to put all of the anxiety, fear, worry…more into action. I could not sit with it, write it away, it needed to be handled, dug into, moved around. Gardening was the way I have dealt with these feelings. It is, yet again, how I made it through a hard season.
There were also early Spring wanders through state parks with my littles. This walking with small people wakes me back up to what is needed. I’ve read somewhere a poem about how you can not take just anyone into the woods with you, they won’t feel it the same way and spoil it for you somehow. I believe this to be true, but taking my littles into the woods with me is a gift to my heart. They don’t often go my pace, they are sometimes rough-and-tumble when I’d prefer smooth and calm, they occasionally would rather make epic slow motion videos of themselves jumping off a half-fallen log while I could endlessly sit and watch the sun shine through fern leaves. However, the rhythm we have together is made perfect when we go wandering. I have clung to those rambles on some of my hardest days.
I share this today as a reminder to myself, I was not in a good mental place this past spring. I worked through it in a fairly healthy way though. The digging in the earth has sustained me through some of my darkest days. The wandering in the woods has carried me through some of the darkest thoughts. Knowing how I did it “then” helps me know that I will be able to do it again, and I will need to do it again.
Again, I am sharing this because, yes, the days get hard dear ones, but you are still loved, and I am still here for you. We are going to make it to the other side, to see what is out there beyond this muck, together.
Let’s be honest please. Most of you didn’t even realize that I was gone. I like to pretend that I told each of you that I was turning it off, shutting down my world to fewer than seven people. Or I did pretend that. It’s got to a point that it doesn’t matter anymore how few people have checked in or touched base. I’m at peace with this small world I’m occupying.
It is hard to be the one who makes sure everyone is okay, when you’re not okay yourself. I live in this world most winters so I had an idea of how this quarantine would go. It is okay, I do understand, you have to take care of your own family, your own mental health, there isn’t much left over at the end of the day for anyone else. Especially if you feel like everyone else is doing at least as good as you are.
Something struck me this morning as I boiled water though, this thought that as I have dropped off the societal map, no one seemed to notice. Is what I have done in my circle unimportant? Does it matter even to one person? I will acknowledge my close friends have stayed close and a couple of good friends have tried. I will further acknowledge that I did tell a small handful of friends that I was shutting off my platforms for digital socializing as they were causing my anxiety to peak in ways that I couldn’t get a handle on.
It makes a person feel insignificant. When you have spent several years bringing people in and caring for them, even in small ways. Helping them to feel they belong, giving them a place to just be, pulling others around them to shelter them and lift them up and give them a home in friendship….and no one calls or sends a text.
Why do we do this as a group? Why can’t we care for our extended circles when we are not in physical contact with them? Why do so many people fall so easily off of our radar and out of our good intentions? I’ll admit it likely seems that I have chosen to ignore most of the people I associate with. I know my why and I know that many of you have something similar that you’re dealing with, or something harder.
This ramble was written in April of this year. At a point where my anxiety was being managed by “duct taped and chicken wire” and I needed to get out the thoughts but not actually share them because they were too harsh for a hurting world, too personal for my closest friends. I am doing better now, managing in healthier ways, finding the balance between isolation and a previous normal. But I know not everyone is doing better, and I can understand why.
Looking back I see how we all really are doing our best. No one can be everything they want to be all of the time. Something has to give and our own immediate circle must come first.
This post was never finished, never edited carefully, never really meant for your eyes, I leave it here for those who need it now, still, again. I’m sharing these thoughts today in case you’re feeling alone where you are. Under the normal crush of winter and fears of global pandemic. Know you are loved. Trust that I am praying over you, yes you.
I dug in the dirt on November 28th, 2020. That makes this a good year in my book. Yep, that’s really all it takes for me to see the good. Warm days late in November where the soil is not yet a block if ice, where I can peek under the fallen leaves and still find green herbs. I moved some raspberry plants and dug some peony roots in anticipation, took down some chicken wire fence to be used again elsewhere.
This was a good day.
At one point I sat, near the compost pile, in the sunshine, wrapping twine to save for another use, another day. The dog came and lay in the fresh earth beside me for awhile. It felt all too perfect for this world we live in, like I was just a little too blessed or fortunate to live this life. I want to remember that feeling on the days where my trust is lacking, my faith is faltering, my hope for the good dwindling.
There is good. And, for me at least, it is usually found in the dirt.