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.

About the Garden, but Not

How long does it take to grow a garden? Can you rush it along and hurry it to it’s final, beautiful stages? Can you drop store bought plants into the ground, mulch heavily, water and then sit back and relax away the rest of the season? Is it possible to work diligently for one solid season and enjoy for the rest of your days? This is not just about the garden dear ones.

I can assure you it takes a very, long time.

This is our seventh Summer living in the midst of my garden. Each year, except this one (so far), I have carved away more and more sod to lay garden beds. Lilies, Iris, Lilac, Hosta, Coneflower, Borage, so many more now spill out everywhere. Happily thriving in the rich, heavily composted soil. My sweet husband once replied to my request to extend a bed with something like; “Well, it’s less to mow.”.

Y’all know how hard the winter is on me here. The garden itself and the work done in it is what saves me from deepest depression. Oh sure, there are myriad other contributing factors, but really, the garden keeps my soul above water. I can see it now, this year as I have faced walking away from it. I can see that I did not just grow a garden, I have grown a place for my soul to sit with God and find rest amidst all of the work it has required of me.

I have grown the garden for the riot of color, for the produce, the herbs, the smells, the feel of the dirt under my nails and on my knees…but there is so much more. When you pour yourself into something, like a garden in Minnesota, you get to miss it and think of it and dream of it for several months of the year. It is something to be desired, longed for, ached over even. It is not just a space to sit and sip rum ( I wrote about this once) or a pretty place to rest; though it is that as well. For me at least, though I know not for all of you, a garden is a place to straighten out my thoughts when they are more scattered than daisy seeds on the wind. A space to pray the darkest, scariest, most fear-filled prayers while surrounded by light.

As I mentioned, this is my seventh season in this garden, and this year for sure it is a little out of hand. We were enjoying ourselves at the beach for the month of June and so the garden at home was allowed to run wild. I have been gifted truckloads of mulch twice and that kept the weeds down to a minimum, but the flowers (and the wild-flowers, aka weeds that I allow to grow in my space) took the month to explode and grow and soak up all that my absence allowed. In the old testament it is required to let the fields rest in the seventh year, I wonder if the Jewish people were still able to collect some sort of harvest from those resting fields? Did the fields still provide something of value to those people as my garden has provided for me even as I have given it (part of) the season off?

I wonder about this as I wander among the raspberry brambles collecting as many berries as I ever have in the well-cultivated years. I don’t know how this matters to you, but it matters to me. I can’t help but assume that whatever seeds fell to the ground in those ancient fields would have grown up in the season of rest, even without tending. Sure, there would have been weeds and wildflowers too, but…

Provision is a word that I can not help but associate with my Creator as well as with the garden He allows to grow up around me. He provides all things in their season. He allows all things at their most perfect time. He gives good, good gifts. I see this clearly not only because I grow a garden, but I see it amongst the flowers and herbs more than most other places. This Summer as I look around our yard, trying to decide what to do next (both in the immediate and life-altering sense) I have found my rest, I can see the provision ever-more obviously. This is not what I expected to find here.

This morning I definitely planned to write about the garden, to reveal to you in some small way that it takes a lot of time, effort, and passion to grow. I wanted to examine a bit how the garden has shaped me as I have worked to shape it. Somehow I have lost that track. Now as I sit, I can only see how the Lord has provided so many, many times for me. There has never been a moment that I have strayed from His care even when I ran hard and fast away from His will for me. I’m not really sure I can finish this post well.

I have been sitting with a decision this past week. Well, really we’ve been working on this for the better part of a year now, for me though a lot of it became real in the past couple of weeks. I wasn’t really going to tell you how I have realized that I could not ask all of my people to do something “just for me”, even though they were willing. I wasn’t going to write out how selfish that made me feel or how I knew at once the words were spoken that we could not follow through with our plans at this time in our lives. I was not intending to let you know that we changed our plans and were moving hard and fast toward a different end, yet here I sit typing it all out.

And now that plan is changed as well.

The garden is where it began and this garden is where I will stay. I didn’t come here this morning to tell you that we were not going to move away, but I suppose maybe I did. I wasn’t completely sold on the plan to stay here in this house, in this neighborhood, in this garden. Typing this out though has made me realize more than I would be willing to tell you. I now realize that knowing your family is willing to move across the country for you, in planning to do just that, and then choosing together to stay. That is not the abandoning of a dream, but the realization that you are truly loved, there can be no fear there.

The garden. Provision. Goodness. Peace.

Someday I will go friends, though it seems that day is far off. I’m a little sorry for dragging you along on this emotional journey, but not too much so. Over the year of planning to leave and the last couple of days and weeks in deciding how and where to stay, I have seen how loved I am. How connected to community we are. How leaving this village would not benefit any of the people I love enough to do it. I had felt that there was too much concession on my part, but that’s just not true. I am not giving up a dream, merely postponing it. And I completely trust that wanting this one thing and receiving another will work together for our good. I have no fear and no regret, only peace…though it did take some time in the garden to get there.

Faith and Relationships

When at once we know we are created and that we are creators we can rest at peace. Knowing that all of life will fall perfectly into place as it has been created in perfection.

I didn’t always believe that God would work all together for my good.

At those most questioning, seeking moments I don’t know whether I searched after God with all of my heart or if I just searched blindly but honestly and found that God was in my heart. I remember spending a lot of time looking and a lot of time in prayer and a lot of time in the quiet, waiting. I still ask God a lot of questions and the more of my Bible that I read the more questions I seem to have.

This I know: God is not afraid of my questioning.

Over time I have realized that my questioning mind has brought me closer to Him, even if I don’t always feel the answers are super clear. I can see now that often the point of the questions; the reason they are put in my mind, is only to bring me closer to God. By seeking so hard for what is true and what is good and, well, so much more, I have spent an intense amount of time with my creator.

I’ve decided in my own heart that this is the only point. For me at least. The point of bringing all things to God, the point of asking Him so many “why’s”, the entire reason for my being…is simply to build a closer relationship with the lover of my very soul. This has helped me accept and process an innumerable amount of personal barriers. Knowing that the bad things will come and the hard days will march along, but that whether good or bad, pleasant or trying, full of snow or sunshine…in taking each moment to God and leaving it there at His feet…a deeper peace is found.

It is freeing to know that all of the hardships and all of the mountaintops are only to bring me to Him. I’m not tapping these keys, telling you that I dont worry or wonder or have days where my anxiety creeps itchy and red up my neck. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m trying to say is that regardless of my worry or wonder I know where to take it, and that has made all of the difference. For me at least.

I don’t know how to share this. How to explain my heart to the masses. I suppose it’s good that only a few of y’all read what I write, there are no “masses” to please. I want to put it out there though. If each moment of your life drives you to your knees or brings you closer to Him; well, then that moment has done what it was intended to do. And you’ve done what you should with that moment. No need to fix it or understand it or examine it further.

Be at peace with your Creator. Trust for today that what He wants is a relationship with you. Or believe it for the next hour if that’s all you can do for now. He is good, believe it.

***I know this post is not what you’ve come to expect from me…this is where I’m at today though. Thank you for reading it through, I am grateful.***

I Want You to Know

If you’re wondering what’s going on with us, please read this post.

There are many thoughts that fill my head. More ramblings that roll through my mind than y’all would ever care to read about here. Often I think so long on something that I feel everyone in my circle must understand, even if I had never actually vocalized the thoughts. The last few days have found me wondering about all of the things we have. I have written, though not in a very long time, about the ways my family has been abundantly blessed over the years. People have have given to us, we have stumbled across things, opportunities have just worked out more than I can remember.

All of these gifts and met-needs have filled our home with comforts. I scribble down thanks for these comforts daily. Over the last few days I was caught off guard when several dear friends told me that they didn’t fully know of our plan to escape the Minnesota cold. While we don’t really anticipate leaving anytime soon, we do hope to go, and we are planning accordingly. This is one of those things that is so often on my mind, I had felt that everyone must know. I was wrong, and glaringly so. These two seemingly random ramblings; my overwhelming blessings and my inability to vocalize the thoughts in my head do actually go together…just give it a minute please.

I’ve been wondering why I have so much. I mean, I didn’t really set out the second time around to have this typical American dream with the picket fence and two fancy cars in the garage. Yet here I sit.

I’m not complaining, please let me explain.

Post-divorce things got tricky for us. Jobs lost and given up, a new baby, blending a family that was not so sure it wanted mixing at times. We were in a bad financial place and all I could do was to pray. I asked for enough money to pay the bills. I asked for toys and activities for my children. I asked for friends and a community. I asked for the gas in my car to make it through the week. I asked for a home with a yard, a place to call ours. All of the things I prayed for through tears and with a very humbled heart I was given.

Hear me.

Hear me when I say that there was often not enough money to pay all of the bills, that my children did go without a lot of things other kids have, that I had to work to build a community twice, that very often the gas was not enough to get through the week., that the house we were given took a lot of work and a few years to become a home. Sometimes Frequently the prayers are not answered in the way we expect.

Now though.

As I look around this over-large house full of all sorts of things that I’d consider luxury, I wonder over the gift it all is. And I feel a bit ungrateful to think of walking away from it all. I feel like I am being wasteful of His gifts to me by seeing now that I no longer need or want all of this. Why would He have met these wants if they were just wants? Surely the creator would have known that I’d arrive here, in a place where the wants would be excess and the gifts would be nearly burdensome? This has something to do with First John 3:1 I think.

Yet here I am.

The only way I can rationalize it is in somehow paying it all forward. As I begin to think about discarding things, begin to wonder about selling off pieces of this American dream I also wonder how we can do some sort of good in the lives of our community. How this will look is uncertain to me, but I want to donate to more than just the Goodwill. I’ve asked to see the people in need in my community; read my personal community, not only the place where I live. I’m asking to offer up what I have because it is so much more than we need. I don’t yet know how this looks, but I hope that I see it as it is happening.

That I don’t miss it.

 

 

I want to know, I guess, that all I’ve been given is not wasted. That the notes of thanks I’ve written out continue to have meaning to someone, even if I am no longer that someone. I think about this a lot. And that is why I’m writing it down here to share to you, because I don’t want my circle of friends to miss this or feel as though I didn’t mention it.

I want you to know.

I want you to know that I see the needs you have, and while I may not be the one to meet them, I trust the One who will. I want you to know and so I (hope to follow through with this) will talk about what is going on with us and our stuff in person with you. I will make more of an effort to share with my dear friends where we are on this journey toward less stuff and more happiness.

It may be slow, but it will be deliberate.

The choices we are making today may end up not being the ones we want to live with ten years from now, but as I don’t regret any of the things I have asked for up till now I am sure that asking for this opportunity to travel, to live where there is more warmth and sunshine, to do something that feels selfish, but right… I trust that these prayers will be answered and that I’ll take each day as the gift it is. That is, I think, how I can show my appreciation and gratitude.

 

First Thoughts

The sea has long called to me. Most don’t understand this call as I was born and raised about as far as one could be from any ocean. Yet I feel the pull of the tide deep in my soul. I listen to the waves crash in my head as I steal the quiet of mornings. I feel the vastness of the ocean when I close my eyes on the day. Somehow the Lord saw fit to put this longing in me. I can’t see where else it would have come from. This is a different, a deeper desire than the one that calls me off down dirt roads and toward far off sunsets. A more plaintive whisper in my very heart. I hear it and I wait.

A person can not just set off to the sea when there are obligations and responsibilities; children and bills and chores…can she? We did just that for a brief moment in time. I can not recount here my entire journey to my heart, for it is long and vulnerable, and not quite “wordy” enough. More of it is felt than spoken, really. Over the next string of days I do hope to lock the thoughts down on paper, if only for myself. Some I’ll share, others will be the whispers that take me back one day to that forgotten place inside my own spirit. Set down in pencil and ink as a reminder that I am more than…than what…?

The waves were more powerful than I had recalled. As I stood on the shore watching swells crash over my children, seeing their small bodies submerged by the power of the ocean. I was at once in awe and yet fearful. This is something I had long wanted; babes at the sea, splashing, swimming, giggling. I had wanted to give them the power of a wave, the quiet of low-tide, the beauty of the sun over the water.

More.

I had wanted to drum the sound of the water into their hearts, had prayed that they would feel the pull of a place like this in their subconscious. I can not guarantee that they will long for it, live for it, run after it (or any other thing), but I can give them the experience at the shoreline. Can fill their cups to brimming over with tidal waters. This trip was a start, was a drop in the bucket.

I allowed the ocean to speak deeply to my children and I can only pray that the voice of it will not diminish as they grow. That if not the call of the waves than the cries of their own hearts will be loud and forceful. That through the power and wonder of the sea, they can relate their desires. I have watched them sleep on this adventure, seen their sun-kissed faces as they rest, the joy spread wide from their hearts. I have brought them to the type of place I could call home, a place I am my truest self and I have given it to them. I have kept nothing back. Yet I know it was only a vacation, an adventure, a respite. They see it as such and I fear that if it is only this then it will not have been enough.

How could a few days ever be enough?

I have given them a taste though. At this time it is what I can give. Who can say how the weeks and months and years ahead will unfold? We try to craft our future, jot outlines of plans, make a way to get what I want. I know though, in that deepest place, that I am not in control. Proverbs 19:21 is familiar to me; “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”. Honestly I’ll keep scheming, keep asking, keep planning for what I want from this life, for the lives of my children. I’ll seek that place where my want and His Will intersect. I trust that the place exists and that I will be made aware of it as I come upon it.

This day I will look for the guideposts which must be along my path. The signs and signals which will direct me in the way I should go, the way that I should lead them. Optimistically these paths will cut close to the water, easily and with deep crying out to us. We will not have to stretch to see the way they will fulfill a longing. More so, I will trust that the Lord wants good for me and that I can live that good by the sea…or not. Place matters, but not so much as well, this I’ve come to know over years spent out of place.

I circle back to the beginning. If this desire for the sea is not from the Lord than from where has it come? If He put a desire in me which is this strong I can trust that He will fulfill that desire in the way that only He can. I know this to be true. I will not force it or overly strive for it, but I will actively work toward my own goals seeking His will for me as I go along.

Ache

This past week is the time when I do some of the most difficult remembering of my year. I tried to tap it out here, thinking that it would help to explain my perceived melancholy. Instead it brought a deeper sadness, a more frequent ache as I thought over the words I had typed. I could not share those words with you; not here, not in this way. I also could not share the words when we were together because after thirteen years it seems that I should have come to more of a sense of finality, acceptance, peace even. I know those of you who will tell me that I could have said something, I should have told you how sad I am, and to you I can only nod and know that I would say the same. Yet there are no words.

There are no words to explain a thing that has settled into my very soul. It is an ache that I no longer feel, it simply is a part of who I am. It is a piece of the person I have become, I don’t mind it. It is a reminder that I can do the hardest of hard and come out of it alive. I tried to write “better” there, but I am only thankful to have made it through with my heart broken and my sanity intact.

I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. How did I come through the most difficult ( I had to stop just now and wonder at this moment that I’m dancing around as truly the most difficult…there have been so many hard things.) time in my life with my mind in once piece? How and why was I able to put all of my pain and the shattered parts of my soul into tidy boxes and continue down the muddy path in front of me? There are those of you who would make jokes over how sane I actually am, but really, why is it possible for me to know this immense grief on top of the long list of other difficulties that make up my life and yet I carry on in a fairly “normal” way.

I’ve been told by a few different people lately that I should read about ACEs. Have you heard of this before? I hadn’t really known there was a name for it, but it would seem that”Adverse Childhood Experiences” are well studied. I dropped a graphic below so you can get the basics if this is as new to you as it was to me. I’m not going to tell you my number, but I will tell you that it was an alarming thing to put a name to. When I started looking into ACEs, I began to wonder how I came to this point in my life. When I look at the resulting negative factors of having grown up with a few ACEs in my life I wonder, why did I end up so well adjusted? I know that there are those few of you who knew me before my divorce who could point out that I brought some of those childhood traumas into adulthood. You could ask if I married to escape the dysfunction that was my childhood. You could even say that in having a divorce of my own I have dropped more beautiful children into this cycle.

You wouldn’t be wrong.

But…you wouldn’t be right either.

There is so much more to me than what I could underline and highlight as risk factors. That is ultimately what I am so curious about. Why do some people go through these experiences and seem to break under their weight? Why do others not? Even siblings don’t always handle the same stressors in the same way. This is something that I am curious about. Is there an inborn ability to withstand these triggers in certain people? Can a small percentage of the population go through childhood traumas and retain the ability to avoid the risky behaviors and mental illness that seem so common to those who go through these experiences? I am hoping to do more reading on this topic because as a person who has gone through some of these things I wonder.

The most alarming part of this should probably be that over 60% of the population has at least one. One out of eight people has at least four. Look over that list again, do you know which person/people in your circle are the one in eight? I am not naive enough to think that everyone in my friend group has a history with none of these experiences and yet I am not ignorant enough to think that all of my friends have some. So how does the general population walk around seeming so unaffected?

I suppose we are seeing that they really don’t seem so unaffected. There are so many people who struggle with anxiety, depression, much more. I don’t question that these things are real and I don’t question the way that people are coping either. Instead I find myself asking what have they gone through? Let me be clear, I have basically zero knowledge of this topic. I have researched very minimally at this point, but I want to understand the hope or resilience or fortitude that some people seem to have inside of them to overcome what they were exposed to as children. Where does that come from?

Over the years, before anyone gave me a name for it, I have thought that a person’s faith in God or some higher power may have been what allows them to carry on. I don’t currently trust that thought to be completely true. While I have believed in God since I was a very small girl there have been years of my life where any amount of faith was questionable at best. My behaviors at times would seem to point to the exact opposite of faith. Whatever that would be, denial I suppose. As I look at the times when my faith was strongest it was most certainly not when I needed to have the closest relationship with my Creator. While I do know that God is what has ultimately held me together, I don’t believe that my faith in Him or in His love had much to do with it at all.

I have asked myself if I managed all of the hardships simply because I had to. I was the oldest child, the one my mother expected to help the most or be the most responsible. Over the years I know that I let her down in that respect, but in my defense I would say that I knew when I could let her down. Looking at it now I can say that I knew because my own failings in this area came at times when she had the most outside support. I did not disappear when she was most alone or broken. A better question would be; how did I know this as a teen? It felt the same then as it does today. I know when she most needs me even still, and I know the support system that she has built around her is much stronger than it has ever been. As I read over this I can see what some of you might insinuate; asking why I need care for my own mother in this way. I will add it to the list of questions I currently seek answers for, and tell you that I simply do. Is it the typical first child belief that they are caretaker and controller-of-situations that made me who I am?

Is it something more? Do certain people have the sight in them to see the other side and how things should really be? Can a percent of those kids growing up with ACEs know inherently that childhood does not last and that they will have the ability to make it good on their own at some point. If so, where would that knowledge come from? A mentor? A support person? Peer groups? I so strongly want to understand, though I know it is likely any combination of factors. How can we give that knowledge or experience to other kids who are coming through their own ACEs today?

I also wonder how much worse it is getting. Children are now growing up with parents who may have been subjected to their own trauma and who are unable to handle it as adults. These parents are passing on some of that same trauma to their children, seemingly unaware of what they are doing. Is that why so many young people seem so ill-prepared to function in today’s world? If so, how can we help to break that cycle? Also, how can we give the young people the hope or fortitude or faith to trust that they can do the hard things that their lives will require of them? How can we quiet the gripping fear, the stifling depression, the overwhelming grief that some are dealing with? Is there anything to be done at all?

Like so many of the other things I write down here, I have more questions than answers about this. I can say that for me, very personally, I know that the struggles I managed from my childhood allowed me to make the most difficult decision that I ever had to make. I can tell you that without having gone through the ACEs that I did I would not have been the strength my family needed. Would someone else have stepped in? Probably. That choice though, knowing that she looked at me and asked what we should do…feeling the weight of it. I know how that event has shaped me, and without the previous hardships I would not have been able to make the choice, I would have been crushed by fear. From doing hard things I knew that I could do this impossible thing.

Why do some use the experiences as tools to get them through, while others see the same experiences as broken pieces of themselves? This is where my curiosity has returned to in this week of remembrance. This is where my mind has settled and what has kept me from falling into the very sadness and brokenness that I’m questioning.

I feel it necessary to profess that my childhood was good. I have almost exclusively fond memories of growing up. When I look at that list of ACEs I know that there were things about the earlier years of my life that should have, could have, made me look back quite differently though. And so I question. I will hope to know what it is that is in me that makes me see the years as overall-good. I will also be thankful. While I have struggled I have also been strong enough to overcome those struggles and I have thus far been able to manage…my life? my mentality? my emotions? what exactly I’m not sure.

This has been a bit rambling, even for me. If you’ve read through to the end I’d hope first that you weren’t hoping I’d wrap this up all neat and tidy and second, that whatever factors have made you the person you are today, you can see them as good. That you can see how hardships give us the ability to endure more hardship as well as an ability to more completely enjoy the good. Perhaps we can even see how much braver and bolder and stronger we are with each difficulty we overcome.

If you have recommendations for me to learn more about ACEs or managing trauma I’d love it if you’d drop me a note.