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?

Winter or The Knowledge of Cold

After my entire life spent hating the winter, in one short week winter gave me gladness, willingly. Winter just proved the most forgiving season.

Okay, okay, okay…I know what you’re all going to say about this post before I even write it. I know it hasn’t been “that” cold this season and I know that I have been here hating the misery of winter for eternity so my sudden decision to mostly embrace the misery seems almost comical. Please, let me type it all out though. February can be relentlessly long and bitterly cold, I need to have proof that I can make it. Here it is; my winter joy (thanks for that one Brooke) in 2020.

This week I initiated an outdoor activity with my children three times.

Please, do you know how amazing that is for me? First let’s remember that it is January and while the highs had been in the 20’s, I am a firm 30 degree “low” kind of girl. We have a foot or more of snow on the ground too, which is lovely to look at, but toes freeze even in boots when you’re standing around in it. One day we went out it was only 18 degrees…eighteen…who even am I?

A couple of times this winter I have asked a friend if her kids wanted to come skate at the rink near our house before open gym. The days have been mild if grey, and I was pretty confident that I’d be able to deal with the cold for the good of the children, and I did. It was only an hour and it was actually fun. Then another friend invited us to skate, we stayed out longer and I may have later whispered to my husband how much I enjoyed skating.

Cut to this week.

This past week was a hard one for me. My babygirl turns twelve in four days and that feels bigger than I am ready for. She gets to go on a great trip, one that I am firmly not ready for her to go on, which takes her away at a time of year when I need sameness. It’s been dark, cloud-covered, frigid. The littles have been bickering endlessly. The teensy has been trying to sleep better, but it’s up and down. My seasonal dip toward depression has been nearing it’s low point…plus we are closing in on a mental season that is hard for me. Six weeks from now marks a tragic anniversary that brings an almost physical weight to my body. This next month will be marked in a countdown of memory.

As you read that I want you to feel it, like really, really. This past Wednesday I was done. I had gone to my room, shut the door and lay down to cry. The endless fighting, the back talk, the rudeness in my house was too much on top of the mental load I carry around this time of year. I couldn’t do it and I knew it. I knew that I could not stay in this house with my people and make it to the end of another winter. I was angry with myself for choosing to stay here when I could have made the choice to go somewhere, anywhere, else.

And then I did it.

I wiped my eyes, mostly. I went back out to my children, told them that there were things that needed doing whether we wanted to do them or not. Then I told them to put their snow pants on. I took them to the sledding hill in town. It was the middle of the day and we had the hill to ourselves. It was gray and cold, but we slid down the hill fast and trudged back up together slowly for nearly two hours. I looked down at the teensy once and said; “who knew your momma left her smile out here in the snow?” and I almost cried again right there.

I came home that day and I knew. It all added up. There was joy out there on that hill in the snow. Joy in how we played together and laughed together. There was just as much fun in the snow as there had been hiking last Autumn. Just as many smiles as swimming in the lake last Summer. Just as much squealing as splashing in Spring rain at the end of the driveway….we were having fun. In winter. I posted to my Facebook about how odd it was, if you follow along over there you’ll know how little I post and you’ll recognize some of these photos, but I needed to get it out of my head quickly and down on paper that I really, really, had fun!

We skated again with friends on Thursday and on Friday we went back to the hill with more friends. In just three days I spent close to six hours outside. That may be more time than I have spent outdoors voluntarily in January ever. And I loved it…weird.

There was no big change. No sudden realization. It seemed like an acceptance more than anything else. This is where I choose to live. These are the people I choose to do life with every day. This (being stuck inside or feeling forced to go outside) is no way to live. It is simple survival and I do not want to model survival for my children, I want to show them how to thrive. More than that though, I actually want to thrive, not just for them, but because this is my only life, my only chance.

So I went outside.

Yes, in January and yes in the snow and yes at 18 degrees. And despite literal years of protestations; I didn’t die. I had actual fun. At the end of each of these three days I felt like the girl that I am in Summer when we are snuggled into our camper bed after a full day on a state park trail. I felt infused with joy. The fresh, cold air had filled each particle of my being. There is a great deal of grace here. Do you know? After my entire life spent hating the winter, in one short week winter gave me gladness, willingly. Winter just proved the most forgiving season. This is quite unexpected.

I know this is only a small window into my days and a minute peek into my vast wintertime experience. I know that next week there are highs forecast in the teens and my own preteen will be far away and I may feel that tug toward darkness and sadness. The desire to hide under blankets may overwhelm me once more. That’s why I had to write this down, I need to be able to see that I felt good with afternoons spent outside. Not just a little better. I didn’t just make it through the day without yelling. I wasn’t only able to survive because I got some fresh air. I was able to thrive, to lighten, to breathe…

That seems a smidge dramatic.

As a sort of closing to this ramble I am placing a challenge here. Not for you, though you could choose it for yourself as well, but a challenge for me. To continue out in all weather, regardless of it’s perceived goodness. I may be cold. I may get wet. I may not love every minute of it, but I can see now how I need it. Like really, really. Just as much as I need my toes in the dirt and the sun on my back I need the icy air in my lungs. I am not merely a child of sunshine, but of outside, I can see how being indoors wrecks me. I will give in to this knowledge and not remain stuck in the lie that inside is safe and warm and somehow better. I will force myself and my people out the door into the wider world because I am better when I am out here. There is no longer any doubt.

If you need a push to get out, may this be a gentle encouragement to you. I have honestly hated winter since childhood, if I can go out and find some sense of self, some bit of internal sunshine, then I know it can come to any of us. The winter is long dear friends, maybe we needn’t be sucked into misery for it’s duration…maybe.

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?

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!

Stopping to Scratch Out a Thought

Friends ask how I’m doing with the staying.

I smile and nod.

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

Leech Lake, Walker, MN

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

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

And wonder if it is enough. Always wonder.

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

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

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

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

Today is one of those days.

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

There is still time I tell myself.

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

There is time.

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

About the Garden, but Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now that plan is changed as well.

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

The garden. Provision. Goodness. Peace.

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

Beginnings and Circles

I sit here typing on my phone-something I really dont like to do. The keyboard always works against me adding letters and slurring my words. I have to proofread very carefully so that the autocorrect feature doesn’t make me look like a moron. It’s a frustratingly slow process, and you’ll still probably catch several errors that I’ve missed.

Today is the day though. The day we begin. The day we set out. The day where we put all excuses aside and go. All of the things have been packed, which is why I am typing on my phone. Most of the things have been cleaned, though not very well. None of the groceries have been bought, but the stores will open soon. If everything works perfectly this is the first of many nights I’ll fall asleep with my head in my camper bed.

I was up early today, sipping my coffee, waiting for the birds to wake up and begin their singing. Sitting in the stillness, seeking a bit of peace and a restfulness that did not come while sleeping. As I tap out these lines I wonder if everything is ready?

…if we are ready.

There is a lot a person needs to do to walk away from their house for six weeks. Most of it is done, but likely not all. I’m not sure how often I will wake in a panic realizing some thing I have left undone. Hopefully not too many. Hopefully I don’t think much about this place at all.

The most difficult part for me is the people, as I knew it would be. Leaving this community makes me cautious. I know I can leave this over-large house with all of it’s sweeping and scrubbing. I know that I can (someday) leave Minnesota and it’s frigid temps without any sadness at all. I can even leave the gardens I’ve cultivated for going on seven Summers; though that one is a close second. The women in my circle though…I’m not sure what life will look like without their daily influence.

In this modern-American culture we tend to think that we can do everything by ourselves, and that we should. I’ve written about this before (here and here and especially here), but community can not be ignored. Indeed it should not. As I think about the ways my people have built upon each other I am overwhelmed. I know we have our struggles, our difficulties, our disagreements; we do life together after all, but the good in the group outweighs the bad of being outside of it.

In the past few weeks I have dug berry plants for and with friends, I have been delivered wood chips, I have gifted garden accessories and other small treasures, I have been saved from an empty gas tank, and I have sold off a million pieces of my life to these friends. I have people to pray for and people who pray over me. I have friends whom I message daily and those whom I wish I could touch base with more often.

This. This I will miss a lot. This I may regret leaving.

I will miss sitting, tucked away in a corner of a yard while children run and scream. I will miss a friend dropping by to my messy, chaotic house with no worry over it. I will miss all of their children. I will miss rushing to a planned event because I want every possible minute with these women. This worries me, makes me think I can’t do it. Can’t really go for good, isn’t that messed up? I mean it’s not, but I spent all of these years aching for this community only to finally have it and then to come to a point where I am in a position to go where my heart calls. Which requires me to start over on so many different spirals of life. Maybe we always need something to cry out for?

I was telling a friend recently how I was nervous to walk away for this season and she kindly reminded me that we will still be together, if not physically. She noted that my circle may be a couple of hours away but that the values we share will hold us close. She was right of course. We will have to work harder to maintain friendships, but they can be maintained. Even grown.

This opportunity to travel (even a bit) and to live smaller is something I have longed for, as most of you know. I can’t pass it up. The need to follow this path and see where it leads beats within my very heart. Who knows what we will learn over the next few weeks? I am excited too.

Often I get stuck in that worrisome place. Seeing only the difficult part of the adventure ahead. I don’t want to do that with this. This chance to be out there, living something that has long called to me is exciting. I see that too. I will be concerned over walking away from dear friends, but! Instead of only worrying, I plan to work. To work on building a larger community for myself, for my family. I mean, there are people everywhere, and most of them probably want the love and the connection I am fortunate enough to feel every day. So, I’ll try to bring it, to build it, to create it.

I’m praying for this opportunity right now. I dont want to get bogged down in the sadness of leaving my people, and I dont want to simply find new or different people. What I am hoping for is complex, I know. That ever-widening of the circle will be difficult to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it too. If you’re close, you know there are still many miles to go but I thank you for being here on the path with me.

And so today is the beginning. The start of a wider circle, a wilder path, a larger wonder.

Or maybe tomorrow, the rain forecast for tonight looks pretty severe…

Sledding, Slowing, and Seeing

This is sort of a different, but not really, post for me. I frequently ramble on about getting out of this miserable weather or how much I despise the cold and dark. Occasionally I talk about something happening in the lives of my children. I’ve decided that today I will relate an adventure instead of whining, discuss a few moments of joy in winter on a day when I’d give most anything for 50 degrees warmer than it is right now. Weird right?

A few weeks ago, before the bitter cold completely engulfed central Minnesota, I took my children outside in the cold. Three whole days. I really did. I pulled on snow-pants and tucked wool socks into boots and drove out for some winter fun. This is unusual for me, if you haven’t figured that out by now. I don’t go out in the cold, I stay in, tucked under a blanket with a mug of tea in my hand most afternoons from December until, oh I don’t know…June or so. But I did this thing in the hope that embracing the cold would help it to not suck quite so much, and it did! It really, really did.

On our first day out we went to the big sledding hill in town on a perfectly sunshine-y day. Since it was the middle of the day there were only a few other kids on the hill and my bigger two went down and up at least a million times. Smiles plastered to their sweet faces. The teeny made it down, but needed convincing, and assistance, in coming back up. Eventually she and I made it across to gaze out over the river and walk along the stone ledge, we followed squirrel tracks in the patches of otherwise undisturbed snow, and she squealed with delight as she zoomed down the smaller hill.

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The sky was a perfect blue and I couldn’t help but stare up and think to myself that if this were winter, actual winter, I could handle it. For a brief moment in time I thought that I might actually make it out of this winter alive and with my smile still on my face. This day was filled with joy and peace. We were happy, even in the cold.

The second day out was more of the same. Sledding on a different hill with equally beautiful weather and, this time, friends. The day was only marred by forgotten ice skates. There were treks into the deep snow, a birds nest at eye level, and kids full of kindness. I have seldom been more surprised by a winter day than I was this day. The sun shone and the thermostats rose above 40 degrees. It was blissful and I was so very grateful.

I held out hope that this would be the winter that I didn’t hide indoors, that this would be the winter when I would do the embracing of the cold that everyone believes will bring me wintertime happiness. And I did get one more day. I am thankful for that third day and the walk we took. Being able to go out with my kids on adventures is one of my very favorite things. They have no agenda, few preconceived notions about what the day will hold. They need only a water bottle and a few snacks to explore a new space.

I love this about them.

I really hope that their attitude for adventures does not change much in the coming years, and not just for my own ease and enjoyment. If they can continue to be easy going as we travel and explore then they will continue to see the best in situations that may be less than ideal. They will keep their eyes open, slowing down to notice the red berries, the cup-shaped leaf, the tiny piece of agate in the gravel. If they can travel easy they will travel far. If they travel far they will be filled with wonder all of the days of their lives and I can think of little else that would be worth more, to give to a child.

The way this world spins, the pace it sets, the hustle we are expected to display…it causes the lives of children to be devoid of wonder. The lives of us all. I will continue to work to slow my tiny little piece of this world, if only a fraction and if only for my short time here. I will wander river paths while littles stomp in the snow. I will haul teenies up snow-hills so we can stay out longer. I will remember to bring the damned skates next time.

I will not enjoy winter. I don’t have it in me really. If it’s below 25 degrees, I’m not going out. I’m just not. I will revel in moments though. I will soak in the apricity, even if I have to sit on my living room floor under the picture window to do so. I will snap photos of joy-filled faces in deep snow and of Christmas tree lights shrouded under a blanket of white. I will be present this year, not just begging for it to end, but noticing all that I can while I’m here. This is not really what I’ve been encouraged to do by so many well wishing friends and strangers, but it is the best I can do. If it happens to get above thirty again soon, I’ll be one of the first people out there hopping over puddles, pulling sleds through the streets, and staring at the clear, blue sky.

On one of the last warm winter nights my sweet husband lit a fire on the deck, we stood out with blankets around our shoulders and hats pulled low over our ears. The stars were out and the noise of the city was somehow hushed just a bit. It was almost as if someone wanted me to see what winter could be. How I could be a small part of something that I hold such contempt for. How there is good, even in what we view as bad, and that we really don’t understand it all anyway. The peace washed over and the fire burned down to embers, time slowed, if only for a moment.

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Where We Are Falling Short

Posting something today that I wrote out in March of this year. I was angry over a life taken. It didn’t make sense to me then and it does not now. I want to do more, I want to serve those in this dark place. I want to help. I wonder what I can do. I wonder how I can give more than I currently give. I wonder how I can reach my hand out to friends, neighbors, when my own family needs me so much. I cry out over my shortcomings and failings, and fears. I’m putting this out there today to let you know that I’m working on these answers, not that I’ve found them. I also need you to know that I write these things from the only place I can; from my mothering heart.

This one feels raw, emotional, maybe even angry… Read gently.

We are failing friends. If you’re like me you probably feel like you’re doing just all that you can and there is no more to pour out and there is no possible way that you can be expected to do more than this. But I say again; we are failing. We are failing our children, we are failing our communities and we are failing each other. We are not doing what mothers and wives and women should be doing. It’s okay if you disagree with me. I have a feeling a lot of people will.

I base this feeling of failure on current events, and so it is debatable to be sure. Where are the mothers when children begin to show dangerous tendencies? Where are the wives when men spiral into depression and despair? Where are the women who could be stepping into necessary roles as defenders, as counselors, as leaders? Modern women often claim they are just as strong as men, can do the same jobs, are even better at most things than men. So why aren’t we living it? Why do we collectively allow dangerous men to walk our streets? Why do we quiet our voice when something potentially scary happens to us personally? Why do we hide instead of stand up and speak out?

I do not agree with much of what happens in this world anymore, there is so little good left. I feel the brokenness deep in my soul and more than any of the other contributing factors I may discuss on this platform I believe the brokenness of man (read humankind) is why I personally struggle with anxiety, loneliness, sadness…more.

Do you know your neighbors? Do you know the moms in the pick-up line at school? Do you know the people in your church at all? If you feel like you do know these people, I’d ask, how often do you interact with them? Do you see them daily? Weekly? Occasionally? When you see them, do you work to build an actual relationship with them or are your interactions platonic at best and, more realistically; compulsory? Who is your community? How are you building them up?

I say again; We are not doing enough.

We are losing people, they are falling into the void, unseen by our eyes and untouched by our love.

We are failing.

Regardless of how or what you or I are doing I know that we could do more.

I know this because in community people grow and flourish, I’ve seen it in my own life, in the lives of my own children. I realize of course that I can not be all things to all people. I am not going to go out and get a degree as a psychologist, but does that mean I can’t talk with someone, really listen to what their heart is saying? Make a personal connection with them, let them know that I am here with them no matter what they go through. I may not be able to stop their pain, but I can sit with them in it. It also means that if I see the broken pieces of their soul and fear for them or their community I can reach out to someone who could help in the needed way. I can do this because I know my friend, I can keep them from falling through. I can also support others as they do this with the people in their circle. I can have a friend’s children over so they can support a sister. I can manage my household for much later into the evening without a break so my husband can assist a friend. I can do something as simple as bringing books along for drop off or pick up events so that my children are occupied while I lean in and listen to another.

Why do we bicker, why do we debate, why do we constantly question what is the right way to solve a problem when we should be quieting ourselves to hear the heart-cry of the person next to us? Why does everyone blame the political machine and then sit back in their comfy chair feeling justified in having criticized all that is wrong with the world, but having done no actual thing? I am so angered, so frustrated, so sick of all of this. I’ve asked these questions before, said that I need to do more, asked for suggestions on how I can act. I have not done enough. I am not doing enough. While no one in my immediate circle is currently falling through the cracks, do I even know how close they are? Do you?

Is anyone reaching out to you today? Do you see what they need and are you ignoring it because you have your own troubles, your own stress, your own mess? I can assure you that if we all did one thing for the person next to us that it would not only bless their heart but it would come back to us in some way. What’s the worst that could happen if we all stepped out and did something? Like it would be so bad if each of us did one good thing for one person today? Even if we don’t see the benefit or if the good doesn’t bounce back to us, can’t being a blessing to someone else be enough? Can’t touching someone elses soul on a personal level be seen as the exact right thing in this moment? Can’t we see that we must do this?! We must, people are falling-right now-we are losing them, we have to do better as a group of women, as a group of people.

This is one of those posts with more questions than answers, more words spoken in passion than could really be expected to find resolution. The cry of my soul is to catch my people, to let them know that we are better together, not without their difficulty or struggle. That while I don’t have all of the answers I can hear you, I can stand by you, I can help you to find what it is that you need. So I will say it again;

In the darkest struggles of our souls, in the deepest dark that we sink into, each one of us is needed. We are loved. We are cared for. I say “we”, not “you”. I have been there, I can be there for you now because someone has been there for me. Though I fail at this often and I fail at it with the ones I most deeply love, I circle back to this knowledge that I do have more to give, I can give better. Sometimes this means a physical task, other days it means listening, hearing without needing to repair what is broken. It may mean admitting that I can not help, but supporting and suggesting ways to find peace.

I ask yet again; What can each of us do this day, to really let someone know that they have value? If you find some answers, would you let me know?

 

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A Deeper Sense of Community

I write about community quite often. About how children can not thrive without a group of supportive people, how each of us needs a tribe to call our own. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how much the women in my own circle have grown closer. I feel like I am a little on the outside because we are off adventuring so much, and while this makes me a teensy bit sad, I can still feel the shift and it brings me so much joy. Some of us need it more than we would even care to admit.

I have frequently felt like the group of women that I’ve come to call mine through homeschooling is special, we are not a bunch of moms who get together regularly so that our kids have normal-ish friendships and educational opportunities. Well, we are that. More than that though the women I homeschool with are friends, helpers, sisters…some of them are like silly aunties to my kids. Others are trusted adults who can be relied upon in difficult circumstances. To me though, the women in this group are simply what keep me going on days when it’s hard to do so.

Over the few years that I’ve known them, these friends of mine have gone through a lot. There has been so much life lived and when one (or more) of these women has struggled, I’ve seen them lifted up again and again. As a group we have cleaned each others houses, we have sat with tears, we have pulled weeds, we have welcomed babies, we have brought meals and watched each others kids. Most of the time these things have been done without anyone asking, for some reason I am surrounded by this group of women who simply want to do life together. They are such an answer to prayer.

Recently I was feeling like I couldn’t do this thing-that-needed-doing in my life. In the past I would have talked to God, talked to my husband, probably not have done the thing. This time though, I did something else. I still brought it to God first. My husband and I did talk it over and he encouraged me to move forward, I was still afraid. I was afraid of angry words coming back to me, of a harshly worded “no”. So, I reached out to my circle. I told a few friends what I needed to do and what my fear was and they all spoke words of support and encouragement to me. I did the thing-that-needed-doing and the answer that I received was not nearly as scary as I had anticipated it being. There is still a road to walk there, but my point is that I would not have confidently taken that first step if not for these wonderful friends.

In reaching out a couple of other things happened too, other needs were exposed. Other hurts touched on. Conversations were had that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have happened. In other circles of women we worry. We worry about being judged. We worry that we are not enough and that we are too much and that we can never, ever, in a million years live up to the invisible standard of the group. I am blessed by the opposite of that. I’m not exactly sure how I came to know these moms, these teachers, these women, but I am oh-so-glad that I have them in my life.

I wonder how I will give this to my kids. I wonder if I even can give it to them. Will they hold tight to the friends that they have now? Growing together in their friendships as they grow in size. Will I instill in them a deep need to not do life alone, will they feel it in the very soul of themselves and seek out this same sort of circle as they move out into the world? I hope so. I want it for them, not only because I don’t want them to be lonely, but because life is so much better lived in this community! It is so freeing to know that I don’t have to keep all of the plates spinning, that I have friends who will come along and give one a spin if it starts to wobble. Better? When a plate falls they’ll be there to help me clean it up, help me to realize that I’m still me without that one. I want my littles to know this, now and as they interact more with the wider world.

This morning I went back and forth with a few friends, it’s funny how much we all struggle the same as mommas. Same frustrations over kids not listening and then our own yelling. Same doubt; whether over a mom we feel does this gig better than us or if our schooling choice is the right one. Same worry; sometimes our kids are hard to understand or we don’t feel like we’re good enough to parent them. This is normal, I have these conversations often. More than these though, in this circle of mine we go deep.

There have been conversations over death. Broken hearts and broken marriages. Sickness. Jobs lost and gained. Our inability to do this SAHM life for one more minute without a change….More even than this these women don’t just talk about these things together we have silently made the pact that we will walk these struggles together. We will be there when the times are good and when they really couldn’t get much worse.

I suppose all that I am really saying here is “Thank you.”.

And so I will take a moment and a paragraph of your time to thank the women who have accepted me in spite of all of my flaws.

Friends, this group is something I have prayed for since I was in my early twenties. I have wanted to have friends who felt like sisters since I moved away from my actual sisters. Thank you for welcoming me in and making me one of yours. Thank you for bringing out the best in me over and over again. Thank you for listening to my worry, for talking through schooling options and sensory concerns and hearing me when the anxiety has gotten the best of my heart. Thank you for opening up your homes and your hearts and for sharing your deepest, truest selves. I love you all and I am so thankful to have you to do this life with. Thank you for never letting me feel judged in any way. I was once afraid to share details of my previous life, I know now that there is very little I could do or say to cause you women to leave my side. You are a blessing to me, a gift, an anchor when the seas get high. Thank you seems not enough, but it is what I have, and so I will say it again, “Thank you”.

If you do not have a group of women who welcome you into safe, uplifting, life-giving relationships please let me know. I will pray with you over your circle, you are not meant to walk this life alone. If you’re in my circle and you don’t feel this way, please reach out. I want little more than for you to know the peace and joy that is this type of friendship.

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