Over the past few weeks I built some fences. Yep, Me. All by myself (well, the children helped a little and my sweet husband figured out how to make a 70×50 garden a square instead of some wonky rhombus). I feel very thankful for the ability and determination God has given me. I also feel effing achy and sore because that’s a lot of posts to drive and holes to dig and…it’s just a lot, okay?
It took me many hours over several days to build these two enclosures. I had so much time to think and observe. The Donald Wyman Crab Apple went from barely opening blossoms to nearly spent while I pounded posts into the ground. It was such a gift to stand in its shade and enjoy its beauty. The weeds grew, were tilled under (big mistake) and grew again while I strung the fences. The bees came, and the birds, and just yesterday, to cries of delight from my children, the butterflies as well.
I have gates to put up still, three of them, and I don’t really know how that will work out. I learned how to cement a post into the ground, and how in the world I was supposed to be able to use the post driver on posts which were eight feet tall, so I trust that YouTube or some smart person I already know, can teach me how to secure a gate. And I’m waiting that for a couple of days anyway. Today I will stand back and admire what God allowed me to do, I’ll contemplate whether or not it is good to be this stupid stubborn, I’ll watch the monarchs find the milkweed in the pasture.
There is still much to do, everyday I wake feeling already behind these tasks. I did get cool season veggies in the ground (umm, yesterday, when it was 85°, but they’re in!!), but everything else still needs to be planted or brought out of the greenhouse. The yard is a field of dandelion fluff which I will regret to be sure, the main flower garden has been seeded, but will be full of grassy weeds by the time seedlings are tall enough to weed around. Once those chores are done others will arise.
This is why I love Spring and Summer. There is always, always, always something to do. And while I admit that I’d love to sit in the shade on a scorching day with a glass of rum and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation; I’m happy to do the work. Especially now that I bought myself a tool belt, seriously, who knew how much of a game changer that would be.
I feel like the devil might be attacking me. Can I write that sentence? Will my people think I am crazy? I’m worried that most of you will think just that, but after yesterday, I feel the attacks getting stronger and I’m unsure what else it could be.
I’ve heard it before, that the devil doesn’t worry about you when you’re not doing kindom work. He doesn’t throw all he has at you if you’re not on a close walk with God. I think that’s probably mostly true. There are points of my life where I was pretty far from God where I remember feeling that everything was going just fine. And there are other times where I was going to church and doing the correct religious things, but it was mostly just an act I was carrying out, not a true relationship with my Savior, and I dont remember there being much difficulty at those times.
For over eleven years now I have made a very conscious choice to walk closely with God. That walk went from worship every Sunday, serving weekly in our church, kids in youth group to feeling the pull away from the modern American version of church. Even as I left the church, such as it was, I have still walked very closely with God.
Let me be clear, my church was a good one. The people I knew loved God, gave of their time and skills and finances, the messages were Biblically based, they practiced hospitality in a way that only a well-off congregation can. They do a lot of good in their community and in the world. They did a lot of good for and in me. But I sat in my seat on Sunday and I heard it; “I am not here.”. I wasn’t really sure what to do with that information. What I was sure of was that this was not the place for me anymore.
We tried a few other churches, a few other youth groups, but I felt nothing. The intention to do good, to serve God and His people is there, in the church body, I know it is. But I would look around and see the people in the church living these “easy” lives and I would wonder how I fit in, how the broken and the hurting and the poor and the sick and destitute fit into this church body. Truth was every time I looked I saw that these people were simply a project for the church. They weren’t being ushered up the aisles on Sunday morning, they were “out there”, someone for us to help but not bring too close…and that bothered me.
This wasn’t intended to be a post about me leaving the church, but in leaving the physical building and body of what the Westernized church has become, I found a closer walk with Christ and since then I have felt the devil on all sides. Some people tell me I feel this press because I’m not going to church. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer over this and I will disagree with that assertion.
I believe that by leaving the church I was able to step forward on my walk with God.
I’m not encouraging anyone to leave their church, you need to do what you feel led to do, but for me, my days are more filled with Him who sent me. God is so much more present in our lives. I pray constantly day and night, I beg for Him to come to those who need Him. I model (to the best of my ability) Christ’s love and servant heart to my children, to my sweet husband, to my friends.
If you know me and you see good in me, I counter that you see God through me.
As this closeness to God has increased, especially in this last year of global pandemic and the insanity that has come with it, I have gone deeper in prayer than I ever have before, I have walked more and more closely with God and I firmly believe that this is why the devil is attacking me. Whether you think I’m crazy for that or not is on you.
There has been a lot of hard for all of us in this year, I know. We all see these hardships through our own lens, I know. For my family the things that are hard have been targeted to go straight to my heart it seems. They are the exact difficulties that make my anxiety accute and my sadness deepen. I have been mostly unable to pull myself out of this cycle of working through my depression. Everytime I have climbed close to the light something else happens which drops me back a rung on the ladder. It is frustrating.
Through prayer I have come to believe that this is no coincidence, the devil certainly knows that which will hurt me most and is progressively building his attacks against me. Trying to break me. To get me to cry out against my God. To leave Him since He is doing so little to help me…..this is for sure one way I could see it.
Last night I so badly wanted to make a list of all the shity things that have happened in the last six months or so. I began that list in my mind and, thankfully, I quickly heard God’s voice redirecting me. Gratitude is a practice that I keep as one my few daily rituals, it was easy to see that listing the bad would not help me to get out of this cycle, rather how by condemning the devil-the root of these bad situations and circumstances- I could break free of this weighted chain dragging me down.
I needed a cleansing fire.
I needed a cleansing fire to break free of all of these annoyances, struggles, difficulties. And God gave it.
At the end of another seemingly impossible day here on our new patch of land, I was reminded by God’s gentle voice that there is more to come, but that it will be good from here on out. While that seems kinda hard to believe after so many months of being beaten back, I am choosing to do just that. Going forward, the gifts will be good, and the hardships will be handled.
I lay awake last night around one AM, praying for a few of the people on my heart at that hour. While I struggle with Easter as a “holiday”, and even with how the church remembers the death and resurrection of Christ, even I can feel the connection. This feeling placed in me of newness, of beginning again, of the old passing away. This resurrection of new life in me. I will begin again this morning, believing that what is to come in my life, in the lives of those I love, is for God’s good and is born of it.
The devil can continue to push and he may do so, but I know whose I am and I will not be tempted past what I can endure through Christ. Praying for you all, as always this Resurrection Sunday.
I’ve read a lot of words discussing God’s silence in our lives. I’ve sat in the darkness and wondered over why He wouldn’t answer me, why He isn’t present or visible in any number of seasons. I’ll be honest, I’ve felt the accute loss of not hearing His voice. I’ve asked a lot of questions of God over the years and I have cried out my “why God??” moments in the darkness.
A number of years ago I was given a reminder, that in all pieces of music there are moments of rest. I like this because it is an easy visual for me. When I am not hearing God’s voice clearly I likely need a rest, not from Him, but from my worry or my hurt or my frustration. I need some time from focusing on my struggle. When I realize that God is not close now, I no longer wonder where is He? Rather, what it is that I’ve given more importance to than Him.
Have you heard the story about how men go up to the mountaintop to commune with their Heavenly Father, but He comes to women right where they are, at the well, in their daily lives? It’s circulated through my social media a few times and has served as a good reminder to me that God enters into life with me daily (not that he doesn’t do this for men, I just enjoy the relational aspect of this story) I don’t have to go searching for Him because He is right here.
When I think about God being right here it is easier for me to understand His sometimes-silence. It’s loud here! There is so much screaming for my attention. Chores, meals, children, sweet husband, my own wants, and the never ending to-do list. How can I expect God to squeeze in there with kind reminders or gentle redirecting or valuable teaching? And so because my focus is on all of the things and not Him, He is quiet. His silence is what reminds me to refocus and it is the lack of God’s voice that reminds me to rest so that I may hear Him again.
Rest has been a continuous concept over the past couple of weeks. People keep bringing it up to me as if I don’t know that my body is tired, my soul is worn thin, my spirit deflated. I do, okay? I know. I know that carrying what I have been for these past months has taken it’s toll on my body and my mind. That the weight of it has allowed the anxiety to gain a foothold in my heart, a place I’d felt I had successfully banished it from for good. Believe me, I know.
I know and so I sit in the quiet of the early morning and count off thanks in my journal. I read and reread my Bible, searching to hear what God wants for me and from me. I know and so at the end of the day I crawl into my bed and sob. I let the tears come, cleansing the ache of loss and terror of anxiety away…for a time. I know and so I apologize to my children when I am impatient, I beg grace from my sweet husband when I just can not even do one more task, I message a friend telling them of my frustrations or sadness or fear. I know and so I do.
Do you see that? I didn’t get that before this morning. I know I need to rest, to be present in the stillness of God but instead I do all of these things. Even my prayer time is spent calling out to Him, asking Him for something, begging for Him to give… I had forgotten. Forgotten that being still in His presence means actually waiting on Him. Without an agenda. Trusting His will to be good, whatever it is, and in whatever time it should come. Being open to hear His word in my heart requires me to let Him silence the world around me.
I have to be willing to stop doing.
A reset then. We’re nearing the end of the Lenten season, entering into Holy week. The Passover Lamb has been slain and we wait. There are three full days and three full nights of silence while Christ descended into hell for me, for you. This is the ultimate reminder. Sometimes God is silent because He is doing the hard thing, the impossible thing. Though I can not see what that work is yet, though I can not hear His voice right now, though I may not feel His presence in this moment, He is at work, saving me over and over again in that one moment from my sin and my ignorance. I will not doubt that He has me in mind, even when I can’t hear His voice, and this brings something I have been lacking, an unusual peace enters into an overwhelmed heart.
I need not do anything. He has done it all. The battles I fight are meaningless, He has won the day. The doing, the striving, the fear and the worry and the ache can all be laid down. It is finished.
The tears are flowing early this morning. Knowing what was given so that I could be a momma and a wife and a good friend…what was given so that I could simply be loved and held, it overwhelms the stillness of my heart and startles me with its message. It asks one thing only.
Last I mentioned, things were hard out here. I was so sure that this move was the right thing for our family and that God would use it to help ease a few of the struggles we were having as a family. In a way I was right, He has had His hand in this placement, I so easily forget that God bringing about what is good is not always smooth or easy or pleasant for me. Often these changes are hard. That’s where we’re at now; in the clearing of what was less than God had for us. It is a damned hard place to be.
I need to focus on the good for as long as I can this morning. See, the overwhelm of the hard is spiking my anxiety, causing days of tears and nights filled with well, not sleep. The good though, it’s here. I’m going to spend a moment listing it out, in the hope that it will get me through this day. And, maybe, you’ll see your own good even in the hard because you spent a minute with me. Hear me when I say that the good does not outweigh the hard. If you’re in a season of difficulty I will not minimize that for you. Some of life pushes us to the brink of our sanity or tolerance or ability, this is why we need each other, this is why we are better together. If you’re in that season…I hope you feel my presence right along side you, you are not alone.
A little of my good, or what’s getting me through:
There has been much more outside time. Days spent in late winter sunshine have helped a tiny to sleep, which allows me to sleep better. The wider outdoors have allowed me to have genuine joy in simply being. Wandering the woods and setting up a garden have opened my eyes again to the small, the often unseen. The children will, occasionally, disappear into the trees. This is all I’ve ever wanted for them – to be out for hours at a time, no agenda, no plan, no oversight – I think, that if I’m quiet about it, they will do this more and more often as the daylight lengthens. There are things I want for the outside, trees and seeds, tools and equipment. Having this space has allowed me to ask for these things and has allowed others to provide them to me, this is something I have not been great at; always a happy helper, not a great receiver of help. This is growth in me and I recognize it and am grateful. There is more, much more, that I could credit to the sunshine and dirt on my knees, but I’ll hold it close for now.
There has been more togetherness. We cut our inside space by quite a bit with this move. I can’t recall what the square footage loss was from our last home to here, but it is significant and deliberate. We do most our indoor life together, the children are close at hand at all times. While sometimes this can add stress, I remind myself frequently how much I wanted us to grow closer as a family. Without indoor rooms to escape to we deliberately provide actual space for each other when it is needed. We have had to work through some hard things, because we could not escape them by walking away. This has been a good lesson for us all, though a tough one. I yell less, because we are all right here, there is no need for shouting. I see the relationships between my children deepening and my heart cries out with joy and a simple prayer that this would last.
Laughter. This one has been tempered with a lot of tears on my part. For reasons known only to God I have needed to cry a lot over the last few months, but I have also laughed. One of my sweet husband’s best traits is his ability to make me laugh. He truly knows just what to say to start me giggling. My children have latched on to this and they become more silly, more sarcastic, more humorous seemingly by the day. They all bring me so much laughter, so many smiles and add a lightness to our days that I don’t know how to be adequately grateful for. The children also laugh together sharing inside jokes and stories with one another. I love this to no end.
Responsibility. This one I look to my children and see clearly. I have allowed them to step into more mature roles with this new house. They have a different accountability than they did before, and while the differences are small right now, I see them stepping up and can believe that they are ready for more. The Summer months will push them past their comfort levels I believe and I am excited to see how they grow into the responsibilities I have planned for them.
Over the last couple of days I have felt the responsibility to care for myself deepen. I have dealt with anxiety for, well, a long time, and I have my tricks and secrets to manage it. I’ve been working those for several months now and the hard keeps piling on, with little opportunity to work through one thing before another struggle is added to the heap. I have deliberately and consciously laid these hardships at the feet of Jesus. I believe that He has taken this load from me, that He never intended me to carry all of this, that I am meant to walk lightly, to be light. I believe this deeply, it is, in fact, at the core of who I believe God is and how He loves me. I also believe that the devil is actively at work in our lives, he is trying to steal us away from the One who made us. I know the evil one is the source my anxiety springs from. The responsibility tie-in here is that I am being over-powered by this evil. I see it, I know that I am not strong enough, even with all of my tricks and plans, to cast him off this time. I know that I have a responsibility to myself and that I need help. I have asked a few close friends to pray and I feel their prayers at work. I have opened up about how I am struggling to a couple of you and have recently asked you to hold me accountable for different things. I have made commitments to myself, like sitting here scratching these words out. Being responsible to myself in this way is new and requires a constant awareness to not let this plate fall.
This list is not long, but it is good. It is honest, and feels like the right way to begin warding off this negative, this hard, this evil that seeps into my heart. I’ll need reminders, I’m sure. I don’t feel the tears pricking the corners of my eyes right now though and that is a first in more than a handful of days. The space I’m in will need all of this goodness. There is room for it, next to the hard. In laying down so much of the other and choosing not to pick it back up, I can see how God is holding me too, not just all of my stuff. This is the thing I needed, why I was sitting here tapping out sentences. He holds me, and when I can see that, I am truly light.
I had thought I would chronicle our move and the early days in our new home. I planned to scratch out all of the excitement and adventure of getting out of town, into the country. I had good intentions to share with my people this new path we are on…but life, man.
In late October we decided that we really did want to move out of town. There was just so much. Dogs barking, sirens wailing, the lack of safety we felt was coming closer to our home and family were all contributing factors. We wanted to be away from all of that. We also have longed for a space to garden big, to live more sustainably, to let the children run freely. And so, we left.
We are home again now. We have been in this new space for one month, though it feels as though we moved in just yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once. So much has happened since November that I fear there is no way to get it all out, to share it all in an acceptable number of words here with you. Only a handful of people have been in on all that has gone into the last three months, I am so grateful for them.
So, what should I share here? The normal stresses of moving over the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year holiday season? The additional headaches over moving during the Covid situation we find ourselves in and how that affected my sweet husband’s job and his ability to be physically and mentally available during this move? The amazing kindness of good friends who helped box and lift, who lent trailers, and took care of my kids, who gave up weekends and garden space.
Should I tell about the immediate needs once we moved in? About the radon, the water softener, a commuter car? Or, the way it feels homey here, but not really like my home yet. How easy it has been to settle into a new rhythm in this place, yet the rhythm feels like it has too strong of a beat behind it.
The emotional toll these past few months have taken has reminded me of the days when my anxiety was unchecked and would rage through my body, creating a constant state of fear. Thankfully it has just been a glimpse back at those days, not a full returning to them. I have been easily able to lay all of the weight of this at the feet of my Lord, this time. Asking a few close friends to pray allowed me to sleep and provided the comfort I needed when I could not set down those last heavy burdens on my own. I look at others in my circle and I see how much more they are struggling than me, and for a moment I think that I should not be complaining or that I should be able to handle what is in front of me, because it isn’t as much or as hard or as terrible, as what someone else is going through.
Thankfully, I know now that I can be overwhelmed by all of this and that it doesn’t need to be compared to anyone else’s hardship. The measuring stick does not need to come out to see if I am struggling well enough under what is in front of me. I need only lay it all down. Most of it isn’t mine to carry anyhow. I remind myself of this often; that I could and have held it together under much more difficult situations, that I don’t need to endure any of this alone, that Jesus is enough for this day.
We have felt God’s hand of blessing in an immense way over these past three months. The way the sale of our house came together perfectly with the purchase of our new home. The friends who were here at all of the right times. The safety and protection in the moments when things have gone terrifyingly wrong. Financially we continue to know that we are being provided for. We have seen His goodness be poured out for us not just in physical ways or in the ways you might consider blessings.
His provision is apparent to me. I am thankful for the physical needs God has met for my family, but more than that I am simply thankful for Him and that He cares about me at all.
I hesitate to even mention in this post how my sweet husband was taken to the hospital two weeks ago and the terror that came with that. Or how his car was totaled while sitting in his parking lot just ten days after we bought it. How I woke up at two AM this morning with the teensy and had no water at the tap. These things don’t feel like blessings or like God is providing for us, they feel kinda scary and too hard and too much for me to handle. But just there is the provision. It is easy to miss, you have to be willing to see it.
In knowing that I am not enough to handle this complete chaos I allow my Father in heaven to handle it all for me. In bringing it to Him I allow Him to save me from all of the anxiety and worry and outright fear that pulse at the door of my heart. The good and the hard are not separate experiences, they both lead me back to the heart of my Creator. I am grateful for all of it. Knowing that God is right here in the everyday crazy is comforting and reassuring. Even though it doesn’t seem to make things less crazy, that comfort is what carries me through.
Perhaps I will write about some of these events in more detail one day soon. Maybe I’ll keep them close and start again with what comes to us next. I’d actually really love to write about new adventures over demolished cars or moving a garden in December, but, as you probably know, this is how I process my life and so there’s a good chance I’ll write out most of these stories, even if they never see the publishing light of day.
For now, for this day, may you stay warm, may you know that you are cared for, and please, wish me luck as I go attempt to repair my well pump…
I used to sit here each morning scratching out thoughts on a page. Not looking for acceptance, but seeking to hear my own soul more clearly. I haven’t come to this place in quite some time, not that I don’t still have questions to wonder aloud over. Rather, the being simply still was too much amidst the global pandemic and fear mongering. I had thought that the writing was good for me, enabled me to get my thoughts out of my head, work through them bit by bit, and I would say that I don’t doubt that process even now.
My routine had to change though.
Much like yours did I am sure. And so I began, in the early morning hours before my children awoke I would read all of the news articles I could, trying to understand as much as I could. Looking for reassurance in the numbers or potential outcomes. As I was forced home at the end of winter with no friends to visit, no homeschool meetups, not even grocery shopping was “allowed”. My only link to friends and family was social media, something I will admit is not good for my mental health. It pulled me in with cute baby pictures, but then led me down ever-spiraling rabbit holes of conspiracy theories. I could not pick up my phone or sit down at my laptop without feeling my heart rate increase at the fear that was surely waiting on the other side of my device.
Fortunately, anxiety and I are old friends.
I recognized it and what was causing it pretty quickly. I was able to insist I leave my phone on the charger most mornings, that I not open my laptop until the children had spilled their raucous energy into our family space. I’ll admit how hard it was to not know what was going on. I wanted the information; how many people had died, how quickly the virus was spreading, I needed to know how afraid I should be. Except I really, really didn’t.
There were a few days where I had to ask my sweet husband to take my phone from me. A realization early on told me that this routine would not be sustainable. My days could not continue in this overwhelm of information and input outside of my control.
Everything was outside of my control. When I focused on those words I knew that “control” could not be where I swung the pendulum from, yet “out of control” seemed to add only more fear. “Outside” though…that was a word I could start with, and so I did.
Most of my days since mid-March have been spent outdoors. I have dug into the earth while the ground was still cold and heavy and wet and I have felt the weight the soil held deep in my own soul. I divided raspberry beds on a damp, cool, misty morning. Far too early or not nearly late enough in the year to do such a thing. As the brambles scraped my skin and the fog lay around me I knew the quiet sharpness and dense peace of the world was still here, just as it has always been. I hauled mulch and moved plants, I ensured the greenhouse stayed warm and the seedlings grew strong. I built, and rebuilt, a coldframe, and have a better plan for it for next spring.
I stayed busy.
You see, writing keeps my mind hyper-focused on my problem or my concern. That was not what I needed. I could do nothing about Covid-19. There was no real way for me to solve this problem, even for my own family. I needed to physically wade through it. So many friends tried to help, wanting me to Zoom chat or Facetime or come to other online dates. I’ll admit the thought of those interactions still fills me with dread. If that becomes the norm I will have to fail yet again at being normal, because I despise the online interactions. What helped (helps) me most was staying busy. Not as a coping mechanism, please understand. I needed to put all of the anxiety, fear, worry…more into action. I could not sit with it, write it away, it needed to be handled, dug into, moved around. Gardening was the way I have dealt with these feelings. It is, yet again, how I made it through a hard season.
There were also early Spring wanders through state parks with my littles. This walking with small people wakes me back up to what is needed. I’ve read somewhere a poem about how you can not take just anyone into the woods with you, they won’t feel it the same way and spoil it for you somehow. I believe this to be true, but taking my littles into the woods with me is a gift to my heart. They don’t often go my pace, they are sometimes rough-and-tumble when I’d prefer smooth and calm, they occasionally would rather make epic slow motion videos of themselves jumping off a half-fallen log while I could endlessly sit and watch the sun shine through fern leaves. However, the rhythm we have together is made perfect when we go wandering. I have clung to those rambles on some of my hardest days.
I share this today as a reminder to myself, I was not in a good mental place this past spring. I worked through it in a fairly healthy way though. The digging in the earth has sustained me through some of my darkest days. The wandering in the woods has carried me through some of the darkest thoughts. Knowing how I did it “then” helps me know that I will be able to do it again, and I will need to do it again.
Again, I am sharing this because, yes, the days get hard dear ones, but you are still loved, and I am still here for you. We are going to make it to the other side, to see what is out there beyond this muck, together.
A couple of days ago now, I fell in the Mississippi River. Thankfully there is no photographic evidence of this event. It was a hard fall on rocks that bruised my shins and knees and ankles. It hurt. I wanted to sit down and cry, mostly from the physical pain, but also just to release all of the emotion that I’ve been regulating inside my body for so many days. I didn’t cry though, instead I walked up and down the river with my three littles, letting the cool Summer water ease the ache I could feel forming in my body.
I’m writing this not because I want you to feel bad for me, but because I’ve been writing a lot about how quickly my littles are growing and how much I’m trying to not skip over any of the days with them. Which maybe makes you think my life is easy and always fun. Hear me when I say that I would’ve skipped this fall had I known it was coming, but I would’ve missed a lot of good had I done that. Like tiny arms hugging me as I stumbled up and out of the water, childrens voices asking if I was okay and what help did I need.
I fell because a small girl was holding both of my hands and when she slipped I righted her at the expense of my own balance. I am glad that she didn’t fall, it would’ve been harder for her to have a good day if she were banged up and frightened, but it was difficult for me not to blame her, to not be upset that I was sopping wet and hurt. This is a part of my mothering as well, not just recognizing that they won’t be small forever and joining them in their everyday, but sacrificing myself over and over again to improve their experience, their lives. In big ways and small.
My fall was a small sacrifice for sure, but it was a big reminder to me that there will be harder days to come. Not everyday will find the beauty in the legos and leaves scattered on the living room floor. (Check out my Facebook page if you missed that photo.)
When we got back home the dog drug her leash across the front of my ankle, giving me a rope burn. It didn’t really hurt, but I cried. Big gasping tears, so much that I had to go inside and calm down. This morning my teensy said; “Momma, that was the first time I saw you cry big…”, this is untrue, I have let tears slip down my cheeks in front of my kids more times than I can count, but I am glad that she saw this time, and that she was aware of the hurt behind the tears. So that she would know it’s always okay to cry, and that it’s often good to keep enjoying the day, even though you are hurting.
In the days since I fell I have been sore. My shin is bruised deep and throbs when I take even gentle steps. It has slowed me down even more than my already leisurely pace. The teensy said something like; “you prob’ly shouldn’t do any work for a few days momma…”. Yes tinygirl. Yes, you’re right, of course. Though the work still needs doing. The littles still need caring for, raising up… Yesterday I snuggled into our camper bed with a sleeping tiny, we rested hard and long, listening to the wind outside in the oaks. It was enough, just what was needed and nothing more.
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?
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.
All that day I wondered over that old life skill put to use in this completely foreign to it place. About a time and space where I learned a lot, just enough to get out as it was.
Yesterday my oldest daughter tried to back out of her apartment parking spot only to slide sideways and get good and stuck in the deep snow behind her. She has never been stuck in the snow, never slid into the ditch, never slipped sideways and scared on a dirt road, at least not that she’s ever told me about. She called her dad and he called me to go see if I could help her dig out, help her get re-parked and help her realize that this happens to pretty much everyone at least once. So I loaded up littles and shovels and drove across town.
The roads were slick, but I was not worried. In my previous life I had dug myself out of snowed in driveways many times, and had to call for help quite a few times as well. I’d helped to push and helped to turn steering wheels this way and that. I knew what to do. I giggled at her when I pulled in and she was a good sport. We dug a little, pushed a bit, tried a few tricks that I knew. We almost had it. Then I shut the car door as I hopped out and…the door locked. Oh shit. I felt dumb.
There was little to do aside from laugh again, so we pushed a bit more, dug more snow from under the car. A kind neighbor brought some salt and sand over and poured it behind her tires while she called around trying to find a spare key that wasn’t far off. Turns out we had one at home. We drove away, grabbed the keys, opened her doors, got her pushed her out. She smiled big, and made me caramel brownies to say thanks, she’s a pretty good kid.
All that day I wondered over that old life skill put to use in this completely foreign to it place. I wrote about the last decade of my life this past week and I suppose that I’m still resting in that mental space. It’s been a long ago time, but I once wrote about a now distant fear I had. About a time and space where I learned a lot, just enough to get out as it was. If you feel much like jumping back to either post you might get a teensy bit more out of this one, and I’d love to hear what you think. It was good to dig the girl out though, in doing so, it felt like one of those lessons I’m always circling back to maybe cycled closed.
Do you know what I mean? I don’t feel that fear anymore, that inability to speak up and tell myself, if not some other person, that I got this. It’s no longer necessary for my heart or my brain to ask someone else to do much of anything for me anymore…this is a whole other issue and I’m not heading that direction with this post. To know that I can do any of the things, well, it makes me smile big. It helps me know that I can teach these kids to do “it”, whatever “it” is. It’s an all too infrequent reminder that I once was afraid; and now, well, now I’m not.
I have to give the credit for this to God. I mean, I really did try to put myself in bad places when I was younger. I definitely should’ve seen what was coming, but I turned a blind eye to my own gut response. In walking away too there could have been a lot more bad than good. I believe the only reason that there was not is because God stepped in and reminded me Whose I am. Through all of the trails I backtracked and all of the paths I recrossed over the years I know He was leading me, always circling back so that I wouldn’t forget those lessons that were most needed by my soul.
Even after I left it took years for the gripping anxiety to let go of me. I was not one to trust that it would all be alright, I had to keep seeing the worst, focusing on what could happen, dipping into the worry pot over and over again. The more I focused on God though, the more I saw that all would be well. Even now in this season where I reevaluate the budget and try to figure how to put a tax refund to good use I still sometimes forget that there has always been enough and there will always be enough and I will never be lost to Him and that is all that matters. There are days when I have to get out of my head and remember.
Remember that never for one minute was I lost to Him. Never once did He step away. Never once was I stuck in a place that He could not, would not, dig me out of. In all of God’s goodness and grace He was always there, leaning in close, whispering that I could do it. Not in my own power of course, but in relying on His. The hindsight is always so clear isn’t it? I often wonder why I could not have seen even a smidge of this path ahead of time, but then…would I have chosen it? Chosen to walk this rough and rocky road? Yeah, not likely.
The place in my journey now seems less difficult, I often sit in the quiet of the morning and wonder if that is because I see God more clearly now, listen more carefully for His voice? Or, is it because the path is smooth that it is easier for me to see His hand in my days? I repeatedly remind myself that it is the former. I know in the deepest parts of me that the good would not come without God. There was no way to get to this knowledge of Him without it coming from Him.
It’s good to know that there is only so much left up to me. If I stay on the track that is marked out for me, paying attention to the guide, I will not stumble. Even as the road is still rocky and sometimes filled with snow. I’m not sure how much this ramble will mean to you today, but it is speaking to my own heart in the pouring-out of it. Often that is all that I really want from these posts; therapy in the telling of my days.
There are things I can do now, that I was once afraid to do. And I smile, glad in this knowledge, not that I am stronger, but that my God is. I stumbled across Psalm 17 in this search for a path, and this is where I leave you today. It’s only a handful of verses and I encourage you to read the chapter in it’s entirety. Verses five and six are mine though, written for me and written on my heart as well.
“My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled. I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”