Walking the Path of Less Anxiety

Sometimes I’d like to hide in the sofa too little one, really.

I was pulled into a conversation recently. One that I really didn’t want to get involved in, but couldn’t quite stay out of either. Still working on keeping my mouth shut while the masses spout their opinions and certainties… As I thought about what I would say to a friend and her shared opinion, I felt the anxiety rise in my chest. Is that odd? I’ve written about my anxiety briefly before and I have actually had a pretty good handle on it for quite some time. I know that my current mental capacity is maxed though, and in adding in this small extra I should expect to feel the familiar flutter.

This has been going on for a few days, so I did what I do now; I sat with it. I’ve been reading too, trying to keep myself from reading too much into the flutter in my chest, the nervous creep inside my mind, the lack of peace and the lack of sleep. In being still with the unrealistic worry, I’ve noticed the growth I otherwise would not have. In the past my anxiety would make me jumpy, more stressed, more worried, more anxious. Nice cycle, right? Perhaps I’ve learned something over the years though.

While I still have the anxiety; it still surrounds me and closes in on me. The growth comes in not being afraid of this tight place anymore. I have felt the lack of oxygen enough times and I now know how to calm it, ease it, live through it. As I sat this afternoon, trying to write while my heart beat loudly in my chest, I decided that there are a few things I do to ease the anxiety. I thought perhaps they might work for you too. Here’s my short list and the path I usually take through the dark forest.

Most notably on my journey through each bout of anxiety is thankfulness. I have kept a joy-journal for three or so years, tracking every little thing that makes me smile, makes me see God, makes me thankful to do this life. My list is several thousand gifts long and when I look back over it I can see how keeping track of the good has been pivotal in weathering the bad. The “thankfulnesses” have helped me carry on through the anxiety, causing me to search out the good amidst the immense worry that sometimes threatens to smother me. When it seems there is no good, only pressure I try to remember that I can be thankful for the weight, how it anchors me here.

I’m going to assume that you can see how the writing has made a difference. I am not at all surprised that with each sharing of a struggle, each admittance of a fault, and each spoken silence I feel less of the crush. It is scary to put myself out here in this Nevernever of internet space. I find more peace in pouring out the truths of my soul than I could realistically put words to, though I will continue to try. I search for meaningful thoughts to be shared. I hope that you get something from the rambling. I pray for those who read my words, that you would be changed by them. My audience is small, but still, this is what I work toward.

My next go-to is that I get lost in fantasy. I post on Facebook begging for recommendations of a fantastical world to get lost in. I pull out old stand-bys; thick volumes that allow me to live in another time and place for two (let’s be honest, four) hours at bedtime each night. I make digital library requests and charge my Kindle. This getting lost in literature is not just a typical escape, I find that it frees up my mind to not focus and dwell on whatever is causing the anxiety. I can put myself in another world while my unconscious self works out the perceived problems in my life. I’m in the middle of my eighth book this month, so I know I’ve been hiding here.

My final tactic to fight against the clinging fear is sort of an anti-tactic, if that’s a thing. I will bail out of commitments and obligations, I will be still and focus on the anxiety, not willing it away rather, asking it to come close. To whisper what it is that is lacking or overwhelming. I suppose I could go to this place first, get quiet with God and my own mind, asking for the wisdom to be imparted. Not all anxiety is created equal though, and most is petty and manageable through these other strategies. This place here is where I have seen the most growth, this is why I no longer fear the crush or the flutter, why I can still process daily life when anxiety is pressing.

When I took a deep breath and spoke actual words to my friend, I felt the exhalation of my lungs and I let my head clear. I spoke my truth into the fear-filled place between us. The place where I didn’t really want to be. I was able to be kind and clear, I didn’t yell as perhaps I would have once, I didn’t demand she do it my way, I didn’t even suggest that she should. I trusted that my truth would not be lost on her and that if somehow it was misunderstood, we could work through that together.

I knew that my own experiences were worthy of putting out into actual space because I have put so many of them out there in digital space. I knew that I would, one day, be thankful for adding my own opinion to the masses, and that it matters what I think. I knew that no amount of educating myself on the topic would better express my thoughts than my own experience. I simply had to invite the fear in, let it rest in my mind and be healed by the peace it found there.

Advent Reflections

One year is not a long time. Except that it is. Yesterday I posted something that I wrote a year ago. A reminder to quiet myself in this Advent season if nothing more. As I read through the place I was a year ago some realizations drifted into my consciousness. I went out to pick up my girl shortly after that and on the drive I sat with some of the emotions that were expressed in that year-ago-ramble.

I had shared a desire for three things for myself in the Advent season.

To Wander.

To Whisper.

To Wait.

As I meditated on those three broad goals I found myself deeply at peace with where I am now. The wandering over the past year has reached a place I hadn’t thought possible. Not only did my baby buy a camper and a truck to pull it with, but we got out and explored so intensely. I took my littles to seven state parks this Summer. Seven! I found my very first wild lady slipper. My sweet man and I went to Itasca alone for two nights and saw a sky so full of stars that we lay down in the middle of a warm, dirt road and stared in awe and wonder. I hiked more miles, climbed more rocks, and sat around more camp-fires than I have in a decade. My soul was at peace.

All of this great exploring inspired some more local adventures as well. We found friends who wanted to get out and explore with us. We took trips together with new friends and walked at old parks with dear, familiar friends. It slowed me down a lot. It taught me to say no to a lot of good things in favor of saying yes to family time, to togetherness, to being able to throw a lunch box in the truck and drive away for the day simply because we had no locked-in plans. At the end of this Summer we went to a local wildlife refuge for an astronomy “lesson” and night hike. This was way outside of my comfort level because it was far-ish from home, I’d have the littles to keep track of, and it was going to be cold-ish. Even though the sky was cloudy and few stars were seen, this walk has been an often recalled, favorite memory for my littles. Had we not been in the woods so much this Summer I would not have even attempted the hike, but now I am so very glad that I did.

 

The whispering, well…I still yell. I still yell when I am frustrated and I still yell when I need a child to come upstairs and I still yell when a child starts to dart off into traffic. BUT! I know, after much reflection that I yell less today than I used to. I use a quieter voice a lot of the time. More than that though, I am less angry or frenzied than I was a year ago. There is more peace inside of me to draw from and so I don’t feel like I need to reach the insanity level of mothering quite as often as I once did. While I will never be satisfied with how often I shout, I do see improvement and that feels a lot like success to me.

I have also learned that as the little children grow they need my loud voice less frequently. They are learning what is right and I am learning to let them make choices and live with them more of the time. I can choose to let the child make a mistake instead of stopping it some of the time. They are safe and they know to come to me with their problems, I see them doing this more and more and I am grateful that some days I can just keep my mouth shut all together.

 

The wait. I have anticipated this Advent for a few months now. Things have felt sort of hurried in our house, like we are flitting past each holiday, each milestone, each memory snapping pictures but not being in the moment. I have hoped the feeling of Advent would jump in early and overtake me without any effort on my part so that this spin would slow. Despite my best effort, it didn’t. I took two weeks off of our normal activities, some of those I planned deliberately, sickness knocked off a few others and I actually forgot one or two. My husband also took a two week leave from work and we have all really enjoyed it, but the days are still flying by with little white-space in the margins.

Today is the first Monday of Advent and I can already feel the slower pace. While today was full and busy and didn’t really stop even for a minute, I started it in quiet reflection…and that honestly did make all of the difference. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t always help, some days are rough and no amount of time on the mountaintop will change their sharpness. On day three of my Advent walk though, it did. I was still and alone with my God before any other things happened or needed to happen. I was able to anticipate the joy that the day would bring, the stressors that would pull at me, the things I wanted to do that probably wouldn’t get done, and I was able to call them all good. And to be thankful for each item on my calendar. I was able to see the light that God was and is shining into my day.

 

 

To wander…To whisper…To wait… While I walked through the year between Advents’ I didn’t notice all of the work that was being done in my heart and in my soul. Today, as I looked back over a year spent in wildness I can see the heart changes that have come into my being, and I am grateful. I’ll jot that down into my journal in the morning, so many graces heaped upon me over this past year. I find it so overwhelming- the lavish love of Jesus. I have this verse in my head and underlined in my Bible, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19 I’m thinking one day I’ll tattoo it on my skin as a stark and remarkable reminder that no matter where I wander, no matter how softly I whisper, no matter how long I wait…the anchor of my soul is still firm…is still secure…I needn’t worry.

In the stillness of this morning I wrap my hands around a steamy mug of black coffee and wait, whispering to myself and to my God of the next grand adventure I have planned, hoping that it fits His plan for me as well as this past year has. I’m in prayer for each of you who is reading these words, that you will feel anchored securely in the midst of your own wild wandering. And that you would have the peace to continue without fear.

 

If you missed the reprint of the original post mentioned in this article you can find it here.

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A Midnight Rambling

Do you know those things that come to you at three A.M. after you’ve tucked a babe back into her bed and you can’t shake the thought so you sit up writing on your phone for an hour? Yeah, that is where this post started out. I know it’s random, maybe a little vague, and not exactly in keeping with where my posts typically come from. I am compelled to put it out there, even though I can hear some of the things that some of the people who read my blog might say. I’ve had that song “Fear is a Liar” in my head and I can’t help but connect that to the drive to get these words onto the page in the middle of the night.

So, here goes. Random, God-directed, ramblings for your enjoyment…or not.

One of the biggest lies the devil tells men is that they are enough without God. The world furthers this lie by insisting that men be strong, that they hold it all together. We (women) further this difficult place by asking our men to be all of the things that they naturally are not.

I’ll start with that last thought; we don’t let them be who they were made to be. We ask them to come indoors and quiet down and support us in these polite, traditionally-feminine ways. Because of the abuse that men have doled out over the years we believe all men need to be less traditionally-masculine, that that will somehow make us all better. We’re asking them to give up their very natures, the way God designed them to be. What if this is hurting them ladies? What if we let them return to their truest selves and live there? I challenge that we would all be better off.

What if in continuing the lie that men need be all things at all times we are breaking their very spirits? I worry about this at one A.M.

I would challenge that men need not be our everything. That they do not need to fill the role in our lives that sisters, aunts, and dear-friends would have filled in all ages save this modern one. That we would support our men in knowing the truest version of themselves, even if it is not what we might think it should be. Even if their truest self goes against what popular culture tells us, especially if that is the case! After all, I am the biggest advocate for a person following their heart, doing what they love, this is true for men as well as women. Even when what a man wants to do with his life is not what I would choose for my own. I suppose, especially when that’s true.

Now I know that some of you will cry out to me because there is such ache in the divide that is equality. I don’t believe that we are helping anyone by asking men to be strong enough to fill all the support roles in our lives and then being upset when they do it in their own way. Or complaining when they simply can not be all of the things. Men were not made for this, we were all made to have a community around us.

The village itself is broken.

We are breaking the men more, and I think that you could agree that men have been broken plenty. No, but just hear me out. We’ve taken away their ability to be who they are, we make it not okay to live in their nature because we don’t want the girls to feel left out. I hear the complaints; “Aren’t we supposed to be equal?”. I tell my kids all of the time that equal doesn’t mean everyone gets the same thing, rather everyone gets what they need. Each child stands alone in their needs yet some want them all to have the exact same things. This is faulty logic, and not just for how we raise our children.

Ultimately my point is that men are not enough. They are not enough to be both your best girl-friend and the one who keeps you safe from the dark of night. They are not enough to provide for your family and support you well while you work towards the same. They are not enough to fill all of the roles we are asking them to. I feel as though I’m rambling a bit here, so I’ll try to wrap this up.

Only God is enough ladies. Only in Christ are all of those roles filled. He will provide the people we need, the true-community we are asking for from one person. We have to let Him though. We have to let the men know this too, somehow. We have to make it okay to tell a man; “Go, be alone with God. Let Him heal those broken places in your heart, the ones that you can’t fix on your own. It’s okay that you can’t, we don’t need you to fix yourselves.”

What we all really need, is our men to come back to God. When will they? When will we make it alright for them to do so? When will they be reminded of their truest selves, their inmost nature…and be happy to see that they simply can not do this life without the love and forgiveness of their Savior? Why do I need to lie here thinking about this? Why has so much damage been done? Why have we given the devil such a stronghold in our lives, in our very souls?

I’m going to put these thoughts down on paper. I’m going to put them out into the scary, digital world where y’all can tell me how wrong you believe me to be. I’m going to hit “publish”. Then I’m going to pray ladies, I’m going to pray over the men you love, the men you are raising, the men from our collective past who have caused us to believe…well, whatever it is we may believe about them. I’m going to ask God to come into their hearts and show them that they are NOT enough.

And that’s okay.

Nobody needs them to be.

I’ll pray that each of them comes to Him with an open heart, that they’ll come to Him ready to admit defeat and to work toward change together. I’ll pray that they know Jesus as their Savior and that they will be changed so deeply due to that knowledge. We need this ladies, we need the men in our lives to be enough only when they are enough in Him.

We need to not further the lies of the devil and this world. Pray with me, would you?

 

 

***Please know that I am speaking about good men here. There are certainly men out there who take advantage and prey upon women, they are beyond my scope of understanding. My hope is that you will read this post thinking about the men you love.

 

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My Life is Not Horrible

The sun rises on a new day. One where I can start fresh without the grouchy mood I was in yesterday. My tiny slept all night last night, she was so tired from such a busy day of playing outside. My teenager was home before we went to bed so I didn’t have to wake when she came in or when she wasn’t in on time. I was finally able to sleep. For those of you with littles I know that you hear me when I shout for joy over something as average as a full night of sleep. It was definitely a gift to my foul mood.

Honestly there should have been no reason for my misery, the day was beautiful, we met friends at a new park and my kids hunted tadpoles wildly for three hours. They found frogs, leeches, snails; my tiny and I even found out how cold the water was when she tumbled off a rock into knee-deep pond water. That’s not why I was crabby though. The park we drove to was about thirty minutes away and while the older two read on their kindles the little one looked at picture books, they were quiet and patient when I got lost following my phone’s GPS to the back side of the park, not where our friends were. I wasn’t upset and moody because I got lost either. I was really sort of sick of listening to myself whine too.

It was a really great day, I’m about to make you feel not-bad for me here. After the park we squeezed in a nap and some play time, made it to dance and the library. Then, back at home my kids helped me prep homemade pizza (if you feel like telling me to shut-up about my problems, I don’t blame you). No amount of sunshine, fresh air, or easy-to-parent-behavior was able to help me shake my mood though. Does that ever happen in your life?

We talk a lot about choosing joy in our house. My little guy feels big feelings, all of them, good or bad, or angry or sad or happy, all of his emotions are bigger. His reactions are big too, sometimes I just don’t know what to do or what say to him because of this, it is who he is and while I don’t want to change him, I do want to help him learn how to manage himself in the small things that feel big so that someday he can manage the actual big things. I try to remind him to choose joy over frustration, peacefulness over aggression, smiles over frowns. It’s hard for/on both of us. Yesterday though, it was me who could not get the joy to take hold, regardless of my effort while he was full of smiles and squeals of delight.

It only took a few words to make my day suck. After those words came out they could not be taken back or repaired with an “I’m sorry”. I thought that perhaps sitting with my Bible and reading God’s truth for my angry heart would cancel out the previously spoken words. While I found a few moments of peace there, I could not lose the frustration I felt in my body. My eyes were opened a little to how my boy feels and how hard it can be to turn this type of mood around. In fact, if someone had told me to “choose joy”? I might have smacked them in the face…just saying.

This goes back to my Expectations and them getting the best of me I suppose. Why shouldn’t I be happy? Why can’t I enjoy an easy week or two after the screaming difficulty that was the end of my winter? Why can’t I utilize learning opportunities with friends? Does every day have to be hard and hated? I knew the answers to these questions and still I felt that I should not be able to enjoy a couple of “field trip” type days with my littles.

I’ve sat with this post for awhile (obviously) and I listened to God speak into my heart about why a few words were so meaningful and hurtful. And do you know what I came back to? Guilt. Yep, that’s what it is. I feel guilty for pursuing my one life with a wandering passion that drags me through wild and crazy mental places. I’m doing the things I want to with my life. Homeschooling better, unschooling my littles, gardening in anti-suburbanite fashion in the middle of suburbia, contemplating living full-time in the insanely large camper that my sweet husband backed into our driveway. See, I’m out there doing the things that I feel my life needs to be whole on someone else’s dime. That’s why the guilt.

Now, before anyone starts saying how I work just as hard, I’d like to acknowledge that while that is true, my contribution does not keep food on the table or campers in the RV park. I know my place as stay home parent and educator is important and I don’t discount that it is. But…My husband is unable to quit a job that he does not love, we need the insurance, the paid vacation, the paycheck. He sacrifices his ability to follow his own wild life to finance mine. Can y’all feel my guilt yet? This is why it hits me so hard when he jokes about the perceived ease of my days. This is why when I was mopey and pissed off last week I could not shake it. Because he is so sacrificial for us.

This hit me pretty hard and while I know that there are other reasons that we aren’t sitting on a beach somewhere, I have realized that his devotion to me, to us, to stay at a job he dislikes so that I could have happiness, is actually a really big deal. I would not want one of my own children to forgo their own dreams, but if they did? I’d pray it would be for a reason like this. How do I not feel guilty when I am listening so closely to the words I speak to myself, so closely in fact that I am allowing those words to be louder than any other voices I let in. The selfishness I see in myself in my present state of self-care is only heightened by the sacrifices he makes for me. I wonder if I have bent too far to an extreme, where I am not giving enough in my marriage…I hope that is not the case.  I hope too that our dreams could be woven together, built upon each other, and that the wildness of each of our souls could be felt and known, expressed in who we really are and by what we actually do.

Now I will try to figure out where I go from this thought. If I really believe that we all should do the thing that seems most crazy to the world but most sane to ourselves, how do I help my husband to do that? It would cause a good amount of chaos in our lives. It may require faith that feels beyond me. It may just mean making some sacrifices that I am not ready to make, yet. I am one of the first to tell you how hard a lot of my days are, in a first-world, poor-me, wah-wah-wah sort of a way. Over the summer I aim to change that, because I am beyond cared for, loved and blessed. There is more to me than this whining, no really, there is. I hope you’ll come along for the journey. My eye’s have once again been opened to the gift and the joy that is my life, and if I continue to see it as the opposite? Well, I have no doubt that my perception will become my reality.

 

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After Winter…Or, The Day We Bought a Camper

 

After all of my months of whining and complaining I feel it only fair to y’all who’ve stuck with me that I write something positive. Optimistically we have finally, FINALLY, met the end of this long winter! I know it seems silly to some of you, but this season broke me in new ways which I have recounted endlessly over the past few months, if you missed those posts, here and here are two for you to commiserate with.

Yesterday my littles and I were outside for the entire day, Friday we spent a few hours at  a park with our homeschool co-op. Today, once the sun rises high and the chill blows out with the wind, we’ll be back out there, digging into the dirt to find the depth of the frost. Moving compost, wondering over the warmth of the sun, which mere days ago seemed to give off a feeble heat at best. It’s about time. I am so grateful for the return of spring-like temperatures, and as I anxiously await the first rainstorm of the year, I realize that I have found my smile again.

Over this winter as I wondered how I would make it through, how I could hold-out until the weather turned, I proposed this off-the-wall idea to my husband. It was something that had been bouncing around in my head for quite some time but really seemed unrealistic. I had thought about roadschooling our littles, but with older children, a house, a yard, a need for full time income and insurance, more…getting the eff out of this frigid state seemed far-fetched. Nah, it seemed completely insane. One day I did it though, I actually said out loud; “What if we bought a camper?”.

 

My sweet husband has made many jokes about living in a camper. He has questioned my desire and where it comes from. He may indeed, think I’ve lost my damn mind, though he’s never said that exact thing. Instead, he picked up the search. He started researching, took us all to look at travel trailers, learned about how much weight his truck could haul. He has made my crazy dream a possibility by backing a thirty-five-foot trailer into our suburban driveway. We have our first outing planned in two weeks and I can not wait! While we are only hauling across town to figure out what we don’t know I feel like it is the first step down the right path.

So new adventures will begin. I realize all too well that camping costs money, while there are free places to stay mostly we are going to have to get creative if there are extensive trips in our future, and I hope that there are. I don’t want to have a camper solely for Summertime getaways. No, what I want is to have a camper so that I can get away to the Summer when Winter is in full force here. One of the more difficult tasks on our list proved to be finding a place that would stay plowed out so that we could hook up and drive South in January. How to do that though is more difficult than just finding an accessible storage facility, perhaps I’ll have to figure out how to write a blog that earns me a few bucks each month, though my understanding of how that works is pretty limited. Plus, I’m guessing a few more people would actually have to read what I have to say, and my opinions are definitely not for everyone.

I’ve claimed the gypsy spirit many times in my writing and I suppose it’s never been more true than in this new direction laid before me. We now have the means to go. To just go, like, anywhere. Over the next several months we hope not only to perfect our abilities to set up and enjoy camp. I will learn how to pull and back up our trailer so that I can go adventuring by myself if there is a desire to do so. We will not only master working together to level the trailer, but we will find a balance that works for us and our littles, we will work out all of the kinks. More than that though I hope to hear my inner voice clearly, to listen not just to my own spirit, but to the whispers that God has put in my soul. To hear, to pray, to follow His leading more closely. I think I am in a good mental place to do that now and I have no doubt that the physical places we are led to will allow the vision God has for us to be seen with fresh eyes.

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This seems a lot like running away. I hear it as I reread what I’ve written. If you’ve hung around my blog long enough though (for an example, read here), you’ll know that something I do well is wandering, my peace is found not only with dirt under my nails, but also with the road humming beneath my wheels. I choose to not see it as running from home, but rather, running to it. I don’t look at it as avoiding my life, but more fully living it. I know what everyone tells you; get married, work hard, buy a house, make some babies…those things are good and they are what we are supposed to be striving toward. I don’t think we’re all cut out for that though. Some of us, maybe, aren’t meant to stay in one place for all of our days.

I’d be a liar if I told you I didn’t long for a garden every day that I didn’t have one. A piece of earth to create on is something I could not live happily without, there was always this sadness when I thought about the plants I walked away from all of those years ago. Even now, while I have lilies and roses and cosmos again, I can still see the pumpkin patch and smell the earth in the flower beds that I dug. I can still remember planting seeds on Spring evenings. I can still feel the sweat from hauling water and pulling weeds on hot Summer mornings. These memories won’t leave me, they sometimes ask me where I went and why I didn’t take them along…is that crazy? Some of you may not get it, I’m thankful to love a man who does, or at least a man who trusts me enough to let me be a teensy bit crazy.

What do I do with that? Can I walk away from a yard full of five summers of hard work? Can I give this garden to someone else, knowing full well that I won’t have one for who knows how long? Can I even be happy without a place to call my own? I don’t have those answers today. Because today the weather is warm, my feet are dirty and my heart is full, it’s difficult to walk away from it in the Summer. Winter winds will blow again though. When they do, they will force me indoors to snuggle with my family, feeling the weight of their immense chill deep in my bones. As much as I want to forget that Winter exists, I must use it as my motivation this Summer. My reminder that all cities have gardens, that I can dig in the earth and leave it more beautiful no matter where we go. There is a freedom in thinking about making more of creation a little better, instead of simply my own small square of it.

Of course there are other concerns, things to consider if we are really and truly going to drive away. Those major decisions can wait though. For today, for this season, I only want to get out and explore, to decide if we can live together in such a small space peacefully. To see if we could possibly enjoy each other enough to go about life in this wild and somewhat unheard of way. I feel the call to it, to this one wild and crazy life. I will listen carefully and move slowly, knowing in the very deepest part of me that there is no destination in this life,  believing that there is only the journey.

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A Reminder of God’s Great Love

Do you know all of those things people say? The ones that are supposed to make us feel better when things really get bad. The platitudes that help us look to God or suggest that peace and good will be found again if we follow a set of guidelines and steps and say the right words.

These sayings aren’t helping. These words are empty. We are losing more people from them than are learning from them. Quoting scripture to the broken is no better. Are God’s words meaningful, impactful, helpful? Yes! A thousand times I will answer yes.

They are so only because I’ve made a choice. Because I’ve decided that good or bad, beneficial or detrimental, even if the very worst thing that I imagine happening happens, God is good. He is goodness. He is peace. He is beginning and end. He is my choice. Even in the never-ending Minnesota winter, He is my joy, my comfort, my contentment.

Do I always get to understand? No.

Do I always get to like it? No.

Do I always get to be okay? No.

Will it be easy? No.

Y’all? That’s a really hard choice to live with. But a day will come when I pray that you wake up and the choice to stay in one place is no longer the sane choice. The choice to continue on with life as you know it is no longer something that even makes sense. You’ll look around and wonder not only “how did I get here?”, but “why am I still here?”. You’ll feel it in the deepest part of you; that this comfort…just isn’t.

And maybe that’ll be the day that you realize that none of this matters. Not as in, “life doesn’t matter so why do I exist”. Rather, in a way where you acknowledge that all of the ridiculously terrible things that have happened to you, the very things that have molded and shaped you, all of the hard that you’ve done…that darkness is simply out-shined by God’s light.

And nothing is fixed and you are still broken. But for some crazy and simple reason you know, like really know, that the dark Satan was growing in you is dead because of God’s good light. It just is. You didn’t do some actual thing or follow a set of steps. You only have to know that it’s true for it to be true…

You only have to know that it’s true for it to be true.

Peace does come again. Good does return to each of us. There will be joy. It does not come in the way that we thought. It can’t. I have this quote, “His ways are not our ways…but they could be.”. They can be ours very simply, by knowing that He is good. I can’t make you know it. Your pastor can’t make you know it. Your friends can’t make you know it. Oddly enough, you probably already know that His good heart is what will save you from your selfish one. His pure grace is what washes all of the dirt from your upturned face.

You suspect it’s true. But, you wonder and worry, really? Can it be for me? Surely God is looking on me and does not care enough to fix this mess. I want to shake you! Know that you’re wrong! Believe it! Is it still going to suck? Are the years still going to be hard? I think yeah. Will there be more sadness? Will the someone you love come back, will hearts soften? I mean, it’s possible, but not guaranteed. Deep down inside of me I have it written on my heart that all of these broken pieces of life only serve to grow my relationship with the Lover of my soul. That’s it. That’s the only thing He wants for me, from me. If I can just see past the ache and anger and brokenness that is this world, He is there and He only wants me.

I get to choose whether or not I give Him myself. Choose, if I can, to let it all fall away and trust that there is freedom when I actually let it all go. I’ve made the choice to do so, I pray that you could too.

Interruption

On a recent Sunday in my home I had wanted to spend an afternoon tucked into a book that was already overdue and causing me fines. My littles have, in my opinion, enough activities, toys, games, and project pieces to keep themselves busy. I was so certain that they could play for a couple of hours together. I was wrong. Nearly all of the time I had set aside to read was filled with complaints of boredom, requests for snacks, and “Momma! I neeeeed youuu!”. I was sad. I was frustrated. I was annoyed at being interrupted.

Similar days and hours have unfolded more times than I can count and I’ve been feeling convicted lately. Honestly there has been a lot of conviction in my heart recently and I’ve been repeatedly humbled. When I look at all of the ways I feel that I am failing or struggling or growing it is a little overwhelming and so I tried to prioritize all of the things. It looked a little like this;

  1. stop yelling
  2. practice kindness to myself, my husband, my children…
  3. go outside-f**k the cold
  4. endure patiently the difficulties of mothering
  5. speak the way I want to be spoken to
  6. care for those (outside my home) who are in need
  7. focus more time on God

This is only a fraction of the list. I saw that in the making of the list I really wasn’t practicing much kindness toward myself. So I decided to start there. There …and with my children. I realized that I was seeing them as an interruption. I didn’t really like that, but I also really wanted to do things. I felt that they very deliberately stole my time and I knew that two things were happening. First I was allowing it. I was almost helping them to steal my time. I was letting them interrupt repeatedly, I was assisting them with many things that they could do themselves, I was letting them use me for things they should learn to handle on their own. That wasn’t fair to them. I was not helping them grow by doing all of their chores or always telling them where their things were or repeating my requests of them twenty times when they couldn’t remember (or weren’t listening to) my instructions for them.

Secondly I became aware that my children are not an interruption. Like, really, they aren’t. I chose them didn’t I? I chose to carry them and birth them, and stay home with them. Together with my husband, I have chosen to homeschool them and lead them toward God. I have chosen to be gentle with them because more than much else? That is what my very heart needs. Gentleness. I’ll admit, I did make a lot of these choices pretty ignorantly. I really had no idea what mothering constantly would be like, but God has placed me here and I know that is not a mistake.

Just knowing was not enough, I still felt somehow cheated. I was giving up a couple hours of sleep each day to etch out a tiny piece of myself in the world with my writing and my seeking after God. I felt like I deserved that time. It has been all but taken from me by a teeny who will not sleep, daylight savings time, and a heart that has been particularly achy and over-full the past few weeks. I felt like all of the things my kids needed or wanted from me were too much. I caught myself one day actually speaking the words; “you’re just asking too much of momma right now…” to a little child who surely had no idea why their needs were more than I could handle.

This begs the question, when all of life is too much, why do I first stop giving to those I most love? Why do I feel beholden to volunteer commitments? Why must I attend all of the classes, activities, and outings that currently cram our schedule? Why do I continue to mostly say yes to everyone else only to shout “NO!” to my dearest ones?

The fear of failure, I think.

I’m pretty sure that’s it for me anyway. If I hold it all together in my obligations the rest of the world continues to turn. No one knows that I’m falling apart inside. My kids will forgive me a few crazy-mom moments…right? How about a lot of crazy-mom moments?

All of this has been spinning around my brain along with my deep sadness the past few weeks. I reached out to a friend for help to stop the yelling and I start over every day. I know that I am getting closer to a full day of softly-spoken words. I talked to my sweet husband about things that were important to our family and about something that was important to my heart. Doing those two small things helped me lay down an immense amount of the burden I was carrying. It really came to me quite suddenly while I was surrounded by friends, barely holding myself together last week. I hadn’t washed my hair, I had barely slept, my heart felt shattered, my kids did not want to stay home. I had been able to give myself the grace I needed that morning, but just barely enough to get me into my car.

I had avoided eye-contact most of the visit, making mindless small talk or just listening as others talked. I’ll spare you the rest of the drama, and simply say that I felt the cracks forming. For no extra-horrific reason, just all of the weight that was piled on over most of my life had finally done it’s work in causing the fracture lines to form in me. I was dangerously close to breaking. I looked over at one of my children as she played wild with her friends and I knew in that instant that she was not an interruption. She was my very reason for being here and doing better each day. All of my children, why hadn’t I seen it before? That list I had written out? All of those connected back to one thing; that I have a purpose and it is a great one. I get to spend my day with these kids, leading them to be less broken adults than I ended up being. I realized in that look that I was failing at my purpose because I saw my purpose as an interruption to my day. None of the other things mattered until I could do the most important thing well.

So now I have decided to “fix” that, and that alone. All of those things I had on my list will come together, I think, if I stop seeing my purpose as a distraction. Can I still write? I think so, I might have to listen more to the opportunities as they present themselves though. Because, let face it, I’m not sleeping through the night consistently anytime soon. Can I still spend an afternoon reading? Probably not without significant bribes! I can, however, steal an hour or a chapter or two when they pick up their own books. While I haven’t yet figured out how to have a grown up conversation with my sweet husband without a million breaks in conversation to handle kid’s requests, it is important to me and so I will figure it out.

Somehow I just know that by seeing my kids as my priority (after God, my husband, and myself) I will be fulfilling my purpose. All of the other things will come together as this one thing becomes most important. Not the outside activities, not the others who press for my time and attention. I am struggling with it. In fact I am writing right now because I yelled at my kids when three of them were all pushing as hard as they could at the very same time. I lost it, I needed some time and I needed to remind myself of the goal. Now, to start over again….