God’s Healing Grace

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.

Rest: A Refrain

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.

Be still. And know that I am God.

Recently

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.

A Quiet, End-of-Day Ramble

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.

Prayer, Mostly

Things are weird right now, right? I’m sure they are with you too. Even though a lot of you reading my page are homeschoolers, this whole lock down on everything good (the library) and fun (museums, theatres, gyms) and perfect (empty parks in spring because everyone else is at school!!!) has me feeling a little like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe.

I’ve tried to decide how best to respond to this whole calamitous disaster (oh, the drama) and have found that my personal feelings are all over the emotional map. One day I am pep-talking a friend who is on edge because small-people-overload and the next I can not tear my own eyes away from the media espousing imminent threat to the well being of my whole family.

My posts over on my facebook page have been following this up and down trend with my emotions and I feel like I need to get a handle on it. My personal faith that God is good and that He will work all things for good has definitely not been clear in the messages I’ve been sending out into the world.

While I have been sitting in the quiet, praying fervently morning and night (and multiple times in the noise of the mid-day), I dont know that those prayers are being felt, that friends are seeing the results as God breathed. Even as I praise God for providing healing, or rest, or a mental break, or physical supplies or….I wonder if the people receiving these things see them as from God.

I know that I should pray in private and my God who knows all things done in secret will hear and answer my heartfelt prayer (see Matt. 6:6). I also know that prayer is my most powerful weapon and that I, personally, am called to pray. It is my gift and my deepest calling. I don’t always understand why this is “all” I get to do, but I trust that it is what I must do.

How do I share God’s gospel with those I am praying over? Or, is it enough to lift them up, to check in with them and to let them know that I am in fact praying? If they do not believe in prayer or in God are my prayers enough to them? Do they want more from me? These are the questions I ask at the end of my prayers some mornings. Though, not every morning. There are days when I trust that all I am doing here is exactly what is needed.

I don’t claim to know all there is to know about intercessory prayer, but I believe that it works whether the person being prayed over believes or not. I trust this because I have seen it. I know that even if a person rejects the power of prayer, they can still be blessed by it. There are no limits on my God and no limits on the prayers he asks me to lift up to Him.

Ultimately, I pray His will be done and I teach my children this same prayer. Not my will, not what I want or even what I think is best…but His good and perfect will be done in my life, in the lives of those I love, in the lives of all those I pray over. This giving up of the outcome of my prayer has done two things; first it allows me to trust God more completely. If I do not dictate the outcome of a situation to God I feel that I am fully putting my trust in Him, which is exactly where my trust belongs. Secondarily, it frees me from needing to know what is best. Because I do not know. I can not know, or even assume what the long term plan may be. Even when the right-now answer to prayer feels wrong, I can trust that God knows better than me. Even when it feels upsetting or scary or weird, God knows what is best.

Maybe that is part of why I “just” pray. Because I can’t explain that to an unbeliever. I can’t tell them how God not healing or not providing or not changing a situation can still be good. I can’t explain that, but I know it to be true.

When my brother passed away due to a sudden, inexplicable accident at just 17 years old it would have been easy to say that I could not see the good. When my mother offered no condemnation and complete forgiveness in a time of all-consuming grief, it would be probable to say that I could not understand. In a blinding time of overwhelm you would assume that I could not see the goodness of God. And yet, in the inexplicable, all-consuming, overwhelming crush of this experience I felt God’s presence, His hand in each decision, each action, each moment. He was there through the horror of that time for us and He is here in this time of hurt for His world.

I’m not sure that I’m doing justice to what I’m trying to say here. I don’t want to, or like to, write about my brother. It always seems to lack the power I hope the message will present. It never feels like I can use the correct words to express the weight of losing him or the strength that God poured into my mother and my sisters in that time. I’ll leave it here today though and hopefully, prayerfully, you will see what I’m trying to say by including him.

…I’m checking in a lot more with people in my circles these days. I need to know what they need. I need to know how to pray for them. I need to be there in this way, however unknown it feels and however inactive it keeps me. It may not be what you think you need, to you it may feel like I am not doing anything at all. But I’ll still do it. I’ll still lift you up, whether you ever know it or feel it is not up to me. That part is not for me to control.

I have decided that I will continue to be transparent and let you know when I’m feeling the crush or the fear that this world is throwing at me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t trust that God’s got this, it means only that He needs me to come back to Him in prayer. It’s a good reminder that I can rely on Him. If you need prayer, and, I mean, we all do, won’t you message me?

Digging Out

All that day I wondered over that old life skill put to use in this completely foreign to it place. About a time and space where I learned a lot, just enough to get out as it was.

Yesterday my oldest daughter tried to back out of her apartment parking spot only to slide sideways and get good and stuck in the deep snow behind her. She has never been stuck in the snow, never slid into the ditch, never slipped sideways and scared on a dirt road, at least not that she’s ever told me about. She called her dad and he called me to go see if I could help her dig out, help her get re-parked and help her realize that this happens to pretty much everyone at least once. So I loaded up littles and shovels and drove across town.

The roads were slick, but I was not worried. In my previous life I had dug myself out of snowed in driveways many times, and had to call for help quite a few times as well. I’d helped to push and helped to turn steering wheels this way and that. I knew what to do. I giggled at her when I pulled in and she was a good sport. We dug a little, pushed a bit, tried a few tricks that I knew. We almost had it. Then I shut the car door as I hopped out and…the door locked. Oh shit. I felt dumb.

There was little to do aside from laugh again, so we pushed a bit more, dug more snow from under the car. A kind neighbor brought some salt and sand over and poured it behind her tires while she called around trying to find a spare key that wasn’t far off. Turns out we had one at home. We drove away, grabbed the keys, opened her doors, got her pushed her out. She smiled big, and made me caramel brownies to say thanks, she’s a pretty good kid.

All that day I wondered over that old life skill put to use in this completely foreign to it place. I wrote about the last decade of my life this past week and I suppose that I’m still resting in that mental space. It’s been a long ago time, but I once wrote about a now distant fear I had. About a time and space where I learned a lot, just enough to get out as it was. If you feel much like jumping back to either post you might get a teensy bit more out of this one, and I’d love to hear what you think. It was good to dig the girl out though, in doing so, it felt like one of those lessons I’m always circling back to maybe cycled closed.

Do you know what I mean? I don’t feel that fear anymore, that inability to speak up and tell myself, if not some other person, that I got this. It’s no longer necessary for my heart or my brain to ask someone else to do much of anything for me anymore…this is a whole other issue and I’m not heading that direction with this post. To know that I can do any of the things, well, it makes me smile big. It helps me know that I can teach these kids to do “it”, whatever “it” is. It’s an all too infrequent reminder that I once was afraid; and now, well, now I’m not.

I have to give the credit for this to God. I mean, I really did try to put myself in bad places when I was younger. I definitely should’ve seen what was coming, but I turned a blind eye to my own gut response. In walking away too there could have been a lot more bad than good. I believe the only reason that there was not is because God stepped in and reminded me Whose I am. Through all of the trails I backtracked and all of the paths I recrossed over the years I know He was leading me, always circling back so that I wouldn’t forget those lessons that were most needed by my soul.

Even after I left it took years for the gripping anxiety to let go of me. I was not one to trust that it would all be alright, I had to keep seeing the worst, focusing on what could happen, dipping into the worry pot over and over again. The more I focused on God though, the more I saw that all would be well. Even now in this season where I reevaluate the budget and try to figure how to put a tax refund to good use I still sometimes forget that there has always been enough and there will always be enough and I will never be lost to Him and that is all that matters. There are days when I have to get out of my head and remember.

Remember that never for one minute was I lost to Him. Never once did He step away. Never once was I stuck in a place that He could not, would not, dig me out of. In all of God’s goodness and grace He was always there, leaning in close, whispering that I could do it. Not in my own power of course, but in relying on His. The hindsight is always so clear isn’t it? I often wonder why I could not have seen even a smidge of this path ahead of time, but then…would I have chosen it? Chosen to walk this rough and rocky road? Yeah, not likely.

The place in my journey now seems less difficult, I often sit in the quiet of the morning and wonder if that is because I see God more clearly now, listen more carefully for His voice? Or, is it because the path is smooth that it is easier for me to see His hand in my days? I repeatedly remind myself that it is the former. I know in the deepest parts of me that the good would not come without God. There was no way to get to this knowledge of Him without it coming from Him.

It’s good to know that there is only so much left up to me. If I stay on the track that is marked out for me, paying attention to the guide, I will not stumble. Even as the road is still rocky and sometimes filled with snow. I’m not sure how much this ramble will mean to you today, but it is speaking to my own heart in the pouring-out of it. Often that is all that I really want from these posts; therapy in the telling of my days.

There are things I can do now, that I was once afraid to do. And I smile, glad in this knowledge, not that I am stronger, but that my God is. I stumbled across Psalm 17 in this search for a path, and this is where I leave you today. It’s only a handful of verses and I encourage you to read the chapter in it’s entirety. Verses five and six are mine though, written for me and written on my heart as well.

“My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”

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?

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.