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Wild Dreams

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.

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A Decade in the Wilderness

I have sought after the sun and the waves and the deep, unknown wildness that rests inside of me. This line is probably the truest I’ve spoken here. In all else that I have done over the past ten years this may be the realest I’ve been with you. All beginnings lead to this end.

I’ve been in this exhausted place for a few days now, trying to find the brain power to wash dishes has been tough, which means putting pen to paper is pretty much impossible. Right now I’m watching my teensy play a reading game on the laptop because it means that I don’t have to get off of the sofa. As I’ve been overtired it has occurred to me how very little sleep I’ve enjoyed in the past ten years, and that got me thinking about what I have actually done over the last decade. I thought that might be a list I’d like to read. And since you clicked on my post, now you get to as well!

With my exhausted apologies if there is not a coherent thought in this rambling.

Just over a decade ago I turned 30.

In my thirties I did a lot of hard things, more than I maybe wanted to.

It shouldn’t be the first thing on my list, but the leaving does define the decade I think. Without the leaving, none of this list is possible and so I let it stay at the top, not because the before is what matters, but because all that comes after needs a place of beginning. And so. I left a man who held me down and kept me believing that I could do nothing important. A man who made me believe that I was worthless. My wants did not matter, being quiet and doing his will were what I was here for. The importance of my life does not begin here, but my understanding of the importance of my life stems from this moment in time. In leaving him, I left an entire life that I deserved, that I had built. I walked from friends and family who did not -some who still do not- see his behavior as hurtful, debilitating, controlling. I left my home and my place in the world-however small he had made it. I walked away with almost nothing, except, that walking free gifted me everything.

The decade of remembering begins here: I found the truest love of my life. While this means one thing it also means a few other things. Let me explain.

First it means that I found the man that I love and discovered that we could build a really good life together as long as we continue to choose each other. My sweet man loves me better than I have ever been loved. He knows my heart and cares for me as if I am the most important person on the earth. He wants me to know (like really, really) that I am loved and he is willing to do almost anything to ensure my continued happiness. He seems to know my heart and be as connected to it as I am myself. I hope that I hear his as well, but honestly, I know that he is better at loving me than I will ever be at loving him. That’s overly honest, be gentle dear friends.

Additionally, it means that I found God again, or maybe that I let Him be known to my soul. For most of my entire life I was lost, wandering unhappily. I felt like God was unimportant and like He didn’t care about me at all. In my thirties I discovered that I was wrong. God is here and loves me deeply. My relationship with Him has strengthened far beyond what I thought it could. The love, forgiveness, and peace this relationship with my Creator has brought is more than I could’ve hoped for. I won’t go on about it here as it is deeply personal, and I’m not sure I could help you to understand.

I suppose that it also means that I began to love myself. Can I let that fit into this list? This is one of those things that is as hard to admit as it is to realize. Because of the place I had been (and that man I was finally able to leave), I did not like the person who I was. Now…though I still see my faults first, I am proud of the woman I am. I love the person that I have grown into and I no longer look in the mirror with deep sadness. So that you hear me; I have not walked some path of Spiritual discovery that has taken me deep into the mystic. Rather I have lived a mostly invisible life. Quietly carving out a small place to be me unapologetically. I don’t do amazing things or have thousands of followers, I only sit here early in the morning, reading God’s word, scratching out my own, sharing a few of them with you. I don’t ever really intend to mean a lot to much of anyone, but I now know my worth. I am free of the hatred of who I had allowed myself to become.

Looking back on the decade I remember a few of the, shall we call them “lesser” things that have happened and wonder if they should be on this list of “accomplishments”. I mean…

I helped get two children through their teens and early twenties.

I birthed two babies in my thirties and have been raising my three littles this entire decade.

I have put in the work to let my children learn at home, choosing not to send them to school, but to let this everyday life be their learning environment.

I have helped to create a home that I am happy in, and where others could be happy too.

I have dreamed big dreams; travel being at the top of that list, and let those dreams rest in the safety of the future, for a time.

I have built a community that I once thought I did not deserve. These women are real, and we do our real lives together most every day. I love each of them and value their friendships more than I knew I could.

I have found church homes and left them.

I have moved into three new homes.

I have read stacks of books.

I have invested in the wrong groups of people (though, they were right for the season).

I have walked miles in the wilderness and driven down more back roads than are rationally acceptable.

I have sought after the sun and the waves and the deep, unknown wildness that rests inside of me. This line is probably the truest I’ve spoken here. In all else that I have done over the past ten years this may be the realest I’ve been with you. All beginnings lead to this end. To this stretch of sand and water that are more inside of me than out. I will remember this decade as a time of honest becoming, a time of learning my truest nature, of walking the path leading ever deeper into my own being. There are unwritten thank you notes in my heart this morning. Words that I may never speak aloud to those who have helped, or pushed, me out onto this dirt path to my soul. Maybe they know? Maybe they don’t need to know?

Ice

Today I drug my over-tired, crabby, mopey self over to the rink by our house. The kids needed to move and I know the temps are dropping so I forced myself to go.

You just never can tell where you might find your smile…

Sometimes you simply must do the thing so that you don’t succumb to the dark place bubbling inside of you.

This day it was necessary for me to take the sleep-deprived, frozen, close to angry version of myself and lace up skates. Without this excursion I would have curled up under the covers and cried, not even kidding a little.

The ice was good, the shadows deep, the sunlight filtered, the air just cold enough. Our laughter was loud.

My time outdoors is short in winter, but today it was good, today I was thankful for clear ice and sharp skates. I’m a smidge worried about the cold ahead and how hard it’s going to hit me, maybe skating will help. I’ll at least hope that it does.

Peace in the cold is a good thing to find. For a few minutes today, out in the cold, it wasn’t really so bad being “stuck” in this place. It was almost joyful, maybe even fun.

Gratitude, a Practice

How do you place value on a day? An hour? A moment? Is it in all that you accomplish? Does the weight of your day mean more or less because you’ve checked off so many of the boxes on your list? Is all lost if, as you look around your life, the same things that needed doing yesterday need doing again, or still, today?

Do you know a moment is good because of the happiness that comes from it? Joy being of more importance than pain on our scales of blessing. Can feeling frustrated, angry, ill-at-ease, cause you to count this minute, this hour as a loss? While a smooth, cooperative, easy day leaves you trusting that God has smiled on you in however small a way.

Could it be something more? Not in how you feel or what you’ve done, but could the inherent goodness of your life be something simpler? Something that is so far beyond our control we often struggle to believe it even could be, let alone is.

What if the value of your life, of mine was not found in these common assesments? What if the goodness of our moments, was ultimately, simply, found in our Creator. What if, however much we eff up, however much we fail in human sight, however much we hate the way our corner of the world is spinning…what if those things can’t impact our peace, because God is good?

I’ve kept a gratitude journal for several years now. I can remember a time when coming up with three good things each day was a challenge for me. When the length of the nights and the pulse of my day made me stretch myself to come up with this handful of daily blessings. In the practice of being thankful though, I’ve become more. In looking for the good I have been able to see that most of it is good.

This has been a slow thing for me to learn. In the scratching out of thankfulness it has taken those few years for me to become accustomed to seeing it all as good. As we have struggled through our challenging years, I’ve come to see, to firmly believe, that even the hard or the percievedly “bad” is often a gift if I choose to look at it from the lens of God. I have needed a great deal of practice with this though.

I’ve written about my lack of sleep before, and how I now am able to see it as an opportunity. This has happened because I have allowed God to work in my heart, begged Him even, to do so. He has shown His goodness to me in so many other ways. Ways that I certainly would not have expected, but more than that in ways that I have not always seen, at first, as His goodness.

In my head right now I am making a list of things that have happened in my life that I would not have written in my gratitude journal, the list is long and I will not share it here. I will tell you that I have put myself in some bad situations as far as my safety, my financial security, and my mental well being are considered. I can see, in the looking back, how God used all -okay most- of those things for good. How the lows have only brought me closer to Him, and how that is really all He wants from and for me.

In my previous life I had sunk pretty low on the gratitude scale. I have deliberately climbed a ladder of thankfulness to be at this place, where I can see how some of those bad situations, weren’t. That He was working good for me in all things, even the heartbreaking things.

I don’t know if this practice of writing down thanks is enough to get me through something terrible. I pray fervently that my faith is never tested in a handful of specific ways. Because while I believe I am strong in my faith now, I also know pretty well what it would take to break me. That’s another reason I practice gratitude though. With the hope that in continuing to be thankful, I could continue to be thankful through any of the worst. It is a goal, and a gamble of course. There are no guarantees that I could experience life-shattering news and be at peace enough to immediately find the glimpses of good.

To be clear, I don’t write down the good and, “poof!” there is less bad. Rather, in making notes on my days, my interactions, my difficulties, I am looking for those flashes of good which are always there, should I choose to see them. This affords me the quiet and the space I need to really evaluate a negative encounter or experience, and hopefully, see it for what God needs it to be, for what it truly is, in my life.

Each year I start over, allowing the days to tick off their own goodness, counting up seemingly mundane moments along with the highest of the highs.

…the teensy sleeping through a night

…fresh, cold air

…skates on the ice with my littles

Do you have a gratitude practice? I’d love to hear about it sometime. To know how it has grown you, changed you. How it’s helped you to find contentment or joy or some small space in your head that has been taken back from the sadness of the world. Sitting down now to pray peace over each of you who takes the time to read my ramblings this year.

Contentment

Y’all have been here for awhile. You know me. I don’t like the cold. I do not look forward to sweaters and boots. I could easily walk away from this state for several months each year and live happily (don’t worry, I’m not going to do that). Last winter was a hard one for me, I went into it with a much better attitude and I held onto that positivity well into January. The season dragged on though, it always does. Do what you will to save your own sanity; stay in Autumn until the winter solstice, reach out and grab Spring while there is still a foot of snow on the ground. The ice and snow, sub-zero temps, layers upon layers…I can not love it.

I do hope to avoid the endless slog of sadness this winter though. I’m going to make an attempt to photograph and write about the things that bring me joy. Joy on the journey; that’s sort of one of my “things”. I don’t know exactly how it’ll go, but I have some ideas. My hope is that in sharing the things that are beautiful and warm and meaningful here on this page I can stay afloat just a bit higher this year. I want to look at this winter as a season of rest, a time to nourish and refresh. Instead of as the cold, dark place in my soul that I fall into and struggle to escape.

Please understand that I will not anticipate or be loving the winter, but I’d like to do more than survive it. The last few days I’ve felt myself slipping into bad winter-time habits; hiding indoors, sending my children out while I stay in, bundling myself in with books and blankets, not stepping out around the fire on the deck for fear of the chilly bite in the air. I am not going to do this for the next six months, I am not. I mean, except for the book part…totally going to do that.

As Autumn continues to swirl the yellow leaves in my yard as opposed to swirling snow I am choosing now to look at each good thing for what it is, not at what it is not. The leaves are crunchy under my feet, my scarf is soft and warm, the sky is clearest blue…these individual joys hold merit on their own. They do not have to be made better by comparing them with the cold-that-is-not-quite-yet-here. I know this now, but I’m posting reminders on my calendar to come back and reread these words, lest I forget.

My attitude change toward winter is a hard fought battle for me, you all know. Earlier this Summer, in deciding to stay, I found that Paul’s words came to me again and again; “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” (from Philippians 4). Don’t get me wrong, winter is nowhere near the conditions Paul is referring to, I get that. I will not compare my minuscule “suffering” to his. What I did do though is realize that my struggle with winter was not what God wanted from or for me. Yes, I believe He wanted to hear all of my complaints, to trust Him for a way out, to listen to His peace spoken in the still, small hours of frozen mornings. He also wanted me to learn, to grow, to not stay in that place where I could not, at least, be content regardless of the weather outside.

To be content has become my goal for the season ahead. I am reminding myself that contentment comes from Christ. I can (and oh! have I) worry over all. of. the. things., but this will bring my soul no rest. There is no contentment in my old fallback anxiety. I worry still, that I will succumb to the darkness and despair over the winter as I have in the past. In this worry I remembered some more of Paul’s words though and they reminded me how very not-alone I am. Both in my hatred of the season and in my desire to find joy in it.

“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (from chapter 4, verse 14)

I have an amazing circle of women who I will rely on to keep me on a positive track and who will allow me to complain a bit too. I am hopeful that they will continue to “share in my troubles” and that we will lift each other up without fear of giving too much. I will beg a lot of grace from my family when I don’t want to go out, and they remind me of these words, and I regret writing them because it means actually bundling up and going out, and they will give it because they are so, so good to me. It will be so good of all of you to share in my troubles.

Ultimately, I have no idea how to make this Minnesota winter, and the many I can see in my future, positive. I’m open to suggestions that do not involve actually going out into it! I’m looking for ideas that will be fulfilling, while remembering who I am fundamentally. So, while I will likely take the kids ice skating a handful of times, I have no desire to purchase snowmobiles or an ice fishing shack. Though I will take them sledding, I will still be happier to make the cocoa when we get home. There will be long underwear under my jeans and there will be stocking caps on my head until May, and I refuse to be happy about either, but I will choose to be content in the love and peace God continues to offer me.

My kids on the beach in South Texas last year…one of my favorite wintertime memories!

What Sleeplessness has Taught Me

I have struggled with sleep for over eleven years now. Multiple wakings in the night, falling asleep just to jerk back awake, far too many really early mornings. I know I’m not the only one. I know a lot of people get very little sleep. I do not have insomnia or night terrors, I simply have littles who struggle with sleep.

For me, I knew before I had children that sleep was precious. I have a distinct memory of a conversation worrying over the loss of sleep I would experience when I became a mother. At the time I did not realize the severity to which I would become sleep deprived though.

From my pregnancy with my first child all those years ago I became aware that the loss of sleep was just the first of many things that no one really prepared me for in mothering. When my second baby settled into a pattern of waking every morning at three AM for over a year I found that I was not the only momma who was waking in the night with a toddler, the solidarity helped. With my third teeny I reached a new level of mothering-with-insufficient-sleep.

That teeny is recently five and still has yet to sleep through the night for a full week straight…ever. I have decided that this girl will likely always have sleep issues, it is just who she is, at least for now. She is still too small to settle back in, can not yet self-soothe into a peaceful sleep, consistently struggles to fall asleep, to stay asleep, and to return to it once she does wake. I feel like I have given her all of the tools, I let her listen to her body and sleep when she needs it. (She is actually pretty good at this, napping when she’s overtired regardless of time of day or where she is at the time.) A dear friend made her a weighted blanket, we’ve used the oils, we work on perfect tucking in and bring water bottles by the bed and the special stuffed animal gets all of the kisses. Still, interrupted sleep is her normal.

So what have I learned? Over the past seven or so years I have used the mid-night wakings to grow my faith and trust in a Savior who loves me. I have found that the rest is always enough to get through to the next time I can lay my head down. Sure, some days my expectations are pretty low, but I have also learned to rest in Him when I can’t physically rest. My prayer life has become deeper and richer. I have realized that as I lay awake after settling a child back to bed unable to find sleep myself, that talking to God and listening to His words are the perfect use of that time. I’ve heard some hard truths at two AM and I’ve been the prayer warrior that friends have needed me to be. I’ve begged forgiveness for old sins that I’d forgotten and felt the peace of that forgiveness wash over me as I lay quietly in my bed waiting for a tiny to call out for me again.

This has been the best thing to come of lack of sleep- giving in and giving that time to God. I now cherish the minutes I lay awake in the middle of the night, though I do dread them as well. Knowing that the day to follow will necessitate my morning coffee and beg for an afternoon nap, I lean into God all the more as I beg for sleep or if not sleep, then rest at the least.

I knew it somehow, before I ever had babies, that sleep would be the hardest part of mothering for me. I didn’t really understand why though. I didn’t see the depth of patience it would require of me.

I came to understand that it has never been that I didn’t have enough to give them when I was tired, but that I wasn’t enough ever. The lack of sleep has led to mornings with my Bible open in my lap well after they all wake for the day. It causes me to pray out loud, in front of my children {gasp} when I don’t have the words and I can’t figure how to get through some struggle my children find themselves in. The lack of sleep has posted scripture to my fridge where beginning readers have sounded out the words while grabbing a glass of milk. I am not enough for my children, but I can always point them to the One who is.

This ramble is typed as my baby girl is snoozing on the sofa after being awake for several hours last night. Which has caused plans to be altered and grace to be begged from people I’d rather not ask it of. Humility is something that lack of sleep has taught me as well. When you are overtired you are frequently late, often impatient, and usually a bit of a wreck. If you can be humble through those days (or months…or years) you will find more joy in this journey.

At a low point in my sleep story; a time where I really thought my girl should be sleeping and I was frustrated, exhausted, and angry, I talked about it all of the time. Everyone knew that my child didn’t sleep. Everyone had suggestions and sympathy. I was grateful for both, though the empathy from the exhausted mommas in my circle was what got me through. That “we are in this together” was something I hadn’t expected from lack of sleep and my friends. Coffee was shared over stories of zombie-like stretches of time from other mommas who were currently sleep-deprived by tiny humans. Knowing that other women were doing their personal best in consideration of their lack of sleep was, and is still, inspiring to me. It helps me to keep doing what I do all day…and many of the nights.

Not just that these friends were exhausted, but that they were willing to talk about it, to share the shitty sleep situations they found themselves in, as simple realities. This made a difference somehow. Through these conversations I learned that my kid wasn’t weird, well, wasn’t unusual in her sleep patterns at least. I mean, she’s my kid, she’s going to be weird. I saw that all manner of sleep or not is pretty common among littles. No one ever told me that pre-kid. I thought the baby would learn to sleep over the first year or so and we’d settle into a good pattern after that, maybe waking earlier than I’d like on the weekends, but otherwise enough sleep would be had by all. This is SO untrue.

I was thankful to have women in my circle who listened to me and heard that I could absolutely not do one more week of this! And then stood with me as I’ve done two more years of it. The kindness and grace of this village of mine has been astounding. I have never felt judged because I can’t get my child(ren) to sleep. I have simply felt held in the space we have created where it’s okay to not be able to do a thing.

Hear me also when I say my sweet husband has been there with me every single night. While he does not often get up to lull a sleepless little, he does hold me up on the days I can barely see through to the end. He makes meals, ensures I’m taking my vitamins, pours me water and wine, plays ball in the street in the afternoons to tucker them out…He cares well for me so that I can care for them. This is what I most need. Though, when he gets up for work at three in the morning and tucks a babe back in so that I dont have to get up with her again? That’s pretty amazing too.

Yes, the lack of quality sleep is hard. Yes, on the nights they all sleep through I do sort of brace myself for the next wave of poor sleep to hit us. Yes, I really do want my littles to be well rested.

But I live here.

Here in this space where sleep is highly valued and extremely appreciated when it does come. I have a feeling I’ve still got awhile in this place.

While I am tired this morning, and I will want a nap this afternoon, I’m thankful for all of the lessons that lack of sleep has brought me. They will serve me well this day, and maybe tonight will be the night that we will all sleep.

Asters

The air moves slower, though the wind hurries the clouds across the moon. Bees and butterflies alike rest on the hardy asters, soaking in the sunshine and beauty of these Autumn days. Busy still, but seemingly unhurried somehow. As if they know the gathering is important, but so is the joy you take in the process. Especially now, when winter is knocking hard and heavy at the door.

I sit with them. Knowing the tasks that need be done before the season truly turns. Trusting in the perfect combination of days to ensure enough sunshine is absorbed while the necessary is completed. Feeling in my soul that the only necessity is enough warmth stored in my bones to last through February.

The Autumn slows me every year. Causing me to look hard at the activities I’ve signed us up for and the plans I’ve made. It asks me if all of this busy is sustainable, required, good? Have I allowed enough time in my week for serving those who need help? Have I filled the hours too full to be there when a friend is in need? Do I spread myself too thin to give my best to the ones I most dearly love?

I’m hoping for nights by the fire without snow on the ground yet this fall. Perhaps those moments will be stolen from required tasks. I hope to invite my most dear loves to sit quiet in the final blaze of Autumn. Not rushing to the next thing, rather enjoying this moment as it is, for what it is. For what it is, is no less than what is needed.

Stopping to Scratch Out a Thought

Friends ask how I’m doing with the staying.

I smile and nod.

Say that I am doing well. Filling the Summer to the brim with what I love.

Leech Lake, Walker, MN

There are thoughts I don’t speak, feelings I don’t share, my life is a gift and a blessing and I know it.

And I dig another row of sod out of the backyard. Move plants. Smile at new growth. Listen to the wind in the trees and the cars in the road.

And wonder if it is enough. Always wonder.

Why there have been so many “no’s”. What God is holding behind His back for me. What better is to come. Is this goodness that I need…more than the goodness that I want?

And I dig another row in the earth. Scatter plants to friends and neighbors alike. Cut the grass, drown the sound of the world with the music in my head. Watch the dog rest in the freshly turned soil. This life is a gift…

Yet…I frown at the work I create for myself. Busy my hands with growing, lifting, supporting. Both children and perennials. The occasional smile as something tender blossoms under my care.

How am I? I sit with this question and dirt under my nails. Really, really good. This is true, but in choosing to stay the ache has not disappeared. The desire to run still so strong somedays that the tears blur the words I try to scratch out.

Today is one of those days.

As the press of Autunn weighs heavy on my calendar and in my heart.

There is still time I tell myself.

Time to wander in the woods. Time to get lost in the fields. Time to disappear into the surf…someday.

There is time.

Today is for digging. Perhaps tomorrow there will be something different. Either way this day, this life, this moment is a gift and I know it.