Trusting Their Choices

I’ve been thinking about how I will allow my children to be more independent in their decision making. Since they were small, we have allowed quite a bit of freedom. Letting them jump in the puddles and then dealing with cold, wet feet has always been the best way for them to learn not to jump in puddles with tennis-shoes on. My sweet husband calls this method the “experiential” manner of parenting. I’m not sure if that’s actually a thing, but while he teases me with it from time to time, I think it is the best way to describe my overall philosophy for life. How will we learn if we do not experience?

Still, my ten-year-old is getting to a point in life where learning through doing can cost her more than just wet feet. I wonder how to provide all of the right activities for her to live her bigger-girl life without overly harsh consequences? Too much freedom given in the teen years can lead to all sorts of unchangeable life situations, choices that will need to be lived through for years to come, not just an afternoon. Yet I know that this child learns best by living, by putting her truest self out there and trying it out in the real world. I have no answers for these questions this morning, we will walk along this path together, hopefully the puddles won’t be too deep for awhile yet and we figure out the necessary boundaries as we go.

I also have been watching my littler kids, my husband and I give them a lot of space to learn by trying things out, but these two youngest kids are around a lot of other peoples parents, how do I let them think for themselves when so many other mommas don’t give their own kids the freedoms we allow? How do I respect other parents’ boundaries, while still letting my kids respect their own? I know that I need to be more vocal, explaining to my mom-friends the “why” behind the seemingly crazy things I “permit” my children to choose. I forget that our way is what has worked best for our family and, while I don’t need to force it on anyone else, I do need to respect it even in situations where other kids might not be allowed to do the things my kids choose to do.

If I don’t respect the guidelines that I show my kids one on one when we are in a group situation, it sends a mixed message and my kid may start to question her body or brain. That is something that will come back to bite me when we are climbing or on an unfamiliar trail and they suddenly question themselves in a moment of fear. I know that by letting them climb out as far as they feel safe, by letting them jump off the highest wall they are comfortable on, by simply allowing them to choose to wear a coat or not, they are learning that their choices matter. More than that they are learning that they have power over their own choice. They also see that they are capable, sometimes they fall, sometimes they flail, sometimes they come down a step first, but because we are there to bandage the scrapes and encourage the efforts, they trust themselves.

I suppose that is how I’m hoping to make it through the teen years with grace this time. We have allowed, permitted, encouraged even, this child to listen to her body. To trust her gut, to choose what is best for her through all of her “little” years. Unconsciously, by supporting her in these small things we have encouraged her to do the same with the big things to come. Hopefully she has failed enough and dealt with unpleasant consequences enough times to have those lessons to draw from as she matures. Ideally, she will have so much faith in her own body and brain that she will not fall to pressures or fail to be true to herself.

And so we continue. This day I will allow my eight-year-old to wear shorts…in January…in Minnesota…because that is his choice and he has yet to regret it, though I can’t look at him some days without shivering. I will watch my tiny stomp out into the snow wearing dress shoes and be there holding the boots I suggested before we left the house if she chooses to admit that snow is cold when it melts into your shoes! (I know that she will not admit that, she is as stubborn as I am and she will deal with wet feet for as long as she is able, but next time? She’ll choose the boots from the start because she’ll remember.) I will explain myself better to the other moms that we interact with so that I don’t have kids who second guess themselves.

This is not always easy. I often try very hard to explain my “why” to my kids when I want them to do one thing and they are certain that their own way is best. It is hard to remember that cold fingers will not kill an otherwise healthy child when my own life experiences tell me to put on mittens. It is difficult to stop and see their independence growing when the way they want to be independent causes me to need to plan ahead more. I mean, you really can’t let kids be free to explore their world without remembering to pack a spare pair of clothes and a towel or two. I’m banking on this being best though, that as they grow up they will know themselves and have a wealth of their own experiences to draw from. Not just scary words that grown ups threatened them with.

While my confidence often lags behind what I know to be true in this area, I have decided to commit to advocating for them more vocally. If your family plans to meet up with mine on one of these mild winter days please be prepared. I will not be telling my kids they can’t eat snow because they’ll get too cold, that they can’t take their coat…and hoodie…and snow-pants off (insert eye-roll here). Because I trust that when they are cold they will put them back on. I will continue to let my kids climb the trees, stand on the ledges, and jump from the rocks. Whether we are with friends or not. Because I really, really do want them to hear their own inner voice whisper and they won’t be able to do that if I’m constantly screaming at them to “not”.

Join me won’t you? It takes only a few steps. Choose a day and pack the car with all of the things you might need, take the extra time to do this. Then let your kid choose. Shorts in winter? Sure, if you want (you can pack pants). Take a few steps out onto the thin ice at the bend in the creek? Yes (you can explain currents and how far is safe, you can have spare boots and socks in the backpack). Climb on the frozen, metal playground equipment? Yep. (Maybe put dry mittens on first though?) Life should be experienced friends, even at four-years-old.

If For No Other Reason Than; My Heart Needed the Words

I cut my hair today. I had almost done it a few days ago, but I couldn’t find my scissors. Today I knew right where they were and I quickly snipped four or five inches off of the ends. If we are not friends in real life, it’s important that I pause here and tell you that I have a lot of hair, so the few inches I cut are really not that big of deal.

Or so I thought.

Before I cut my hair I suspected that I would regret it. I did it anyway because as Autumn’s endless layers have already proven, long hair and cold weather seasons do not go together. My hair had been what I would call “difficult to manage” before I had to pull on sweatshirts, sweaters, coats, and scarves. Now, on the occasion that I tried to brush through it, I just broke brushes with the tangles. Literally. My hair needed a serious trim and so I went on ahead and did what needed doing. Now though, I feel much more soccer-mom than gypsy-princess. It’s sort of bumming me out.

 

 

I know, I know, you don’t come here to read about my hair issues. Tiny apologies sent out to those of you who won’t make this connection, I know it’s a stretch. As I went to toss my recently snipped locks into the compost pile, I couldn’t help but feel like those strands were still a part of me. My mind quickly drifted to all of the other things I have cut out of my life over the years, how they still felt like part of me at the time. As I walked back up to the house in the late afternoon sunlight I continued to think how easy it is and how hard it is at the same time.

It’s sort of like this; you decide one day that you really are done with this, this whatever-it-is, it is suffocating or irritating or endlessly entangling, and you do the easy part. Speak the words that cut the line, the ones that burn the bridge, the words that sever. Then, hopefully, you follow through and do the hard part, you walk away, back to the house to pack up or lock the door or shed the tears. This is good, honest, soul-work.

It’s weird that I got here from a trim, isn’t it?

messyhair2

 

When I think about the hard things, the big things that I’ve done to end relationships or endeavors, I often think about the regret I felt immediately after the fact. The fear rushed in and I could see all of the reasons that what I just did or said was wrong. In the looking back though? It is the times that I didn’t follow through, the times I didn’t let that bridge burn that I carry the most regret over. The bravest I ever have been has been when I have done just exactly what I said I would. In those moments I have developed the most respect for myself. Trusting myself is something I have to agree to daily. As I look back I can see that my initial response was nearly always correct, this observation alone should shut-up my internal negativity…though it does not always. It’s because of the words.

The words have often come too quickly for even me. They spill out before I think them over. I frequently apologize and even more often have to lie awake at night thinking over how some thing I said sounded to someone else. I have spent seasons praying that God would guard my tongue. I have spent what seems like millennia sitting quietly after a man told me to “sit there and wait” with an angry scowl on his face.

However, this is the message I now accept as truth:

God does not want me to be silent. He has allowed my voice to cause trouble, to raise questions, to make people uncomfortable. He is not worried by my words. Yes, I know that Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “…Not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths…” I do,  I really, really do. I also know in my very heart that speaking passionately will not get me cast out of His embrace. That following those passionate words up with equally passionate actions will not cause me to lose His favor. If anything this world could use more passion and I am still aiming to fill it with a bit more of my mine despite my unguarded language.

***

I once thanked my ex for allowing me to sit in the truck while he unstuck it all of those times, because if I hadn’t have sat there I probably never would have

A) left his unkind self or

B) learned how to back my own truck up without getting stuck in the snow.

All of those things are good things. All were hard to sit with, hard to follow through on, hard to learn. My ex was not appreciative of my thanks and, in looking back, I probably used some harsher than necessary words. This too is something that I am now okay with, those harsh words spoken in the ecstasy of knowing that I could do something by myself-something that I had been told repeatedly that I could not do- were the exact words I needed to hear in that moment. Me. Myself. My heart needed these words, and isn’t that enough? The regret in saying them because he may have realized some wrong he may have committed was far over-shadowed by the joy in my self-realization.

Peace flows in at the merest remembrance of this moment. My words did that.

***

After a little more than a year of pouring my heart out onto the page , I know that my words can mean something to you too, and I am both grateful that y’all listen to the ramblings and amazed at what you pull from their inconsistencies. God does not need me quiet, He may want a specific message to pour out from me to you, but a message takes words; written, spoken, heard…not silence. I’m learning to think over my words a little more these days, I try to use the words that will heal more often than the words that will hurt. Ultimately, truth is my goal and although I have yet to master delivering the truth in a syrupy sweet way, I will still speak it.

I often tell people that my hair means little to me, that it just “is”. Sure, it’s a part of me, a piece of who I am, but I don’t give it all that much thought. Today that feels less true. I haven’t cut my hair since I was pregnant with my teeny. That teeny will turn four-years-old next week, the ends I snipped today have been with me through a lot of spiritual growth. It really was time for some of those old memories, ancient hurts, and tired feelings to be let go of. Right now I feel lighter without them weighing me down, hopefully I can still feel good about it when I look in the mirror tomorrow. That’s the trick isn’t it? Still loving yourself when you look in the mirror, regardless of the truth you may have spoken?

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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A Midnight Rambling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The village itself is broken.

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s okay.

Nobody needs them to be.

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

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

 

 

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

 

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Writing to Myself

…and so I stood there. In that normal place. The place I had been expected to stay, the place I truly thought I wanted to be, the place where I was supposed to end, but probably not the place I was supposed to “middle”. The place I was terrified to leave.

Turns out?

Walking is as easy as staying…leaving as hard as being still. …

There’s more to this piece of a poem that I wrote for my soul alone. But it’s mine, part of a chapter from the book of me that I don’t read out loud. I can’t help but fear that if I share it, the words will suddenly lose their meaning. I want to hold tight to the words, to the emotion that pours out of them even still when I reread them to myself.

I’ve been learning about friends lately, going deeper into who they are, not satisfied with the how that they are. It seems that we are all the same, our own unique version of the same kind of crazy. While we’re broken, many of us have put ourselves back together in such a way that makes us more beautiful because of the cracks.

You know how you find yourself in a situation and you’re not sure how everything spiraled to this certain place? You feel alone. “No one else could be going through what I am going through!”, you shout to the cosmos. I want to offer a simple reassurance this day; you are wrong. Even if the ones you know aren’t telling you, even if their social media shares are filtered through a vibrant shade of rose, even if you feel completely alone in this place you are. You Are Wrong. Almost all of the women I am close with struggle in a similar way, and the ones who don’t? It is likely they will one day.

When I went through the brokenness of my first marriage ending, the joy of building a life I could love, even the struggles and joys of living this life, I thought I was alone.  But you know what? I was wrong. I didn’t know it then, but I wish I had. I am this woman today because I went through all of the shit without any women to share it with. My mother, my sisters, my dearest friends claimed they either did not understand, or said they could relate, but remained judge-y and worse, cruel. I know now that a lot of those women were afraid, they didn’t feel safe sharing the darkest parts of their own story. Some of them hadn’t gone through any difficulties yet. Knowing that allows me to forgive them, but it doesn’t make the time I spent frightened (of judgement) and alone (without the emotional support of friends) any easier. Where was the truth back then?!

I know that I may have been the first in my circle to do something hard, to walk toward my own truest self. Life has led me down winding paths and I have a mostly different circle now, but these women are the same as the friends I have lost. They are afraid too, if only in a different way. They don’t want too many people to know about the hard places in their marriages, the emptiness that is their normal, the ache that consumes them. They don’t want you to think less of them, to think that they are failing, or not strong enough even to hold together the family that they chose in their innocence. They don’t want you to know the secrets they keep because they don’t want you to judge them and leave. We are all afraid of something.

This morning I simply want my friends to know that they are not alone. I want you to know that you are not alone. Whatever it is in your life that you keep on hiding, whatever pages you don’t read aloud, whatever thing you think is too scary to share…Someone needs to hear your truth. I never really believed that until recently, but it is so true. We need to know that we are not alone, that our fear is less when we are brave enough to share our hearts. I’m thankful to the women who have spoken this to me, to the ones who have shared what they’ve gone through and to the women who have asked me to walk through their hard with them. I am fortunate to have these women beside me, I know.

While I’ve known for awhile now that all I have lived in my life has been leading me to here, I hadn’t really realized how all that I’ve lived would help me to be a better friend in this place. I guess I assumed that my difficulties and successes were to grow me into the best version of myself. I’ve been wondering for a little while now though if those same trials that I felt were deeply personal, were also meant to help someone else? To allow a woman to learn or know without having to walk the roughest portions of the path herself? Let me tell you that it is intimidating to think that the pieces of my life that were the deepest, the most felt moments, that those are the parts that someone, maybe you, need to hear.

I’m not ready this morning. Or at least not on this platform. I’ve been holding this fragile piece of my heart for a long while and I’m not ready to break it open in front of everyone just yet. But I am closer. I am less afraid to share my life with you than I was, because now I can see that my dark may be the light you need to get out of yours.

It is important for me to note here that I have been fortunate to walk the last several years of my story with a man whom I love deeply. Without him reminding me of the love of my Savior, without his own intense love for me, I would not have survived my own story. I know that I am extremely lucky to have him. He knows me and “gets me” and doesn’t try to change me. These are things I’ve needed my whole, entire life. I am more unapologetically myself because he gives me a loving place to be just that. Love and life are hard, but with him they are both easier. He is my proof that taking the hard path is ofttimes the best path…as long as you have a hand to hold along the way.

Friends, I’ll leave you with a few more lines I wrote to myself, which are sort of a compilation of a ton of different quotes that I’ve read over time pertaining to my life, all modge-podged together, made to be just what I needed to hear at some of lowest points;

…Daring Girl, if you get one life, how many Summers will you waste?                           

If you only get one chance to live, why aren’t you doing the thing that is truest to you? 

Why did you settle for okay?                                                                                   

Why did you allow a tether to be a lifeline?                                                     

Brave girl, if you find yourself in the wrong story, trust that you can leave.                 

It is possible to change direction, but stay on the same journey.                       

Sweet girl, this life is yours, you owe it to no one but yourself. …

These words have been mine. They have been for me for a long time now. But maybe? Maybe they’re for you too? I don’t know. We all have to choose our own yesses, our own no’s. Each of has to know where the middle of our own story should take place, we only get one book after all…there is no sequel to this life of mine, of yours. While my choices can’t be yours, I’ll be hoping that you can write the story that you want to read, craft the life that you want to live.

I’m here working on mine right now, and while there are certainly a few chapters back there that are difficult to read aloud, I know that books have the power to change us…if we’ll just open them up. I hope to do more of that, opening up, I mean. If not here in this place at least while in the presence of those who need to hear a few lines from my life.

 

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Sick and Well

This was written about a year ago. The small things I had begun when I scratched this out have been healing me for over a year now. It’s amazing how one change leads to the next…especially when you trust God with the results….

IMG_7651.jpgSometime ago I began this article about why we stretch so far financially. Ultimately, I had to set the writing aside because I got sick. Again. When a few of my children then got sick, I basically abandoned that post. Honestly there are many more bloggers out there who are much better equipped to tell us that we don’t need to spend money on all-of-the-things. When I went back to look over my outline of thoughts I noticed that the ramblings about spreading ourselves financially thin actually spoke to me about how I budget myself. My time, my kindness, my patience, my “yeses”… you know, the bucket from which I pour out.

Here it is: I get sick a lot. I have this chronic issue that I can’t figure out on my own and that I have yet (after a couple of years struggling) chosen to go see a doctor for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible. I am not confined to bed for weeks at a time or in serious pain for hours on end. Just consistently, month after month the same issues reappear. Annoyingly. Frustratingly. Obnoxiously. I’ve dealt with it in many different ways and though it brings it’s own bit of difficulty to our household, I really shouldn’t complain, but sometimes I still do. I have known for a long time that a person can’t give more of themselves than they’ve been given. You have to invest time and energy into yourself when you are a constant care-giver or you will run out of care to give. I’ve begun to do this more and more, realizing that when I try to shake every last drop of energy I have out onto my family, things don’t really go so well for me.

This emotional budget of mine; this amount of self given out verses the amount of self-fulfilling coming in is almost as difficult for me as keeping my checkbook balanced. Maybe even more so. We’ve basically figured out how to live within our financial means without creating much debt to muddle through, but I continually get to a point of frustration with how I manage the allotment of myself. It seems that I am always running on empty and I wonder how much of this is connected to being sick so often. If I had a better quality of self-care would I physically feel better?

Sometimes when you write something down it becomes painfully obvious.

The question then becomes; how do I change the way I mother to allow for proper personal time when I am so accustomed to the cycle I have now? See, what I do now is provide constant care to my littles, grabbing a quiet ride home once a week or so until I am so frustrated that I could scream. Then my sweet husband sends me out to find peace at the library or coffee shop for a few hours. This has kept my overall sanity in check, but I am wondering, if I could get ahead of the screaming, could I keep myself healthier? This has been gnawing at me for awhile now and stealing the mornings was my first attempt at listening more carefully to my body. I think I will have to set up appointments with myself, opportunities to get out before the desire to drive cross-country sets in.

Am I the only one this is difficult for? I’m thinking not, you likely have your own ill-used methods of caring for yourself. This morning I’m suggesting a small shift in how you utilize that method. If you’re like me at all you frequently get to the point where you are mentally exhausted, you feel that one more “MOM!!” shouted from a bedroom will send you to the brink of insanity. If you have tinys who aren’t yet sleeping through the night your physical exhaustion may be the thing that does you in. If you sit through church services managing the needs of your kids instead of letting the message sink into your very soul then you are likely spiritually exhausted as well. Viewed individually, all of these things seem small. When you add them together week upon week can you see how you’re going to end up feeling?

The shift is just in remembering that you will feel exhausted or burnt-out at some point, and taking the time today, before the crazy-you shows up. You know you’ll be overwhelmed by your mothering gig in a couple of days, so why not ask for the time now? I know it’s hard. I know looking at your sweet husband and telling him that you need a break before you lose your mind is difficult. But I propose it is ultimately better! A friend told me recently that she read about doing three small acts of self-care each day. I’ll admit this sounded overwhelming to me. Three things each day that were just for me? I immediately thought that either the small things would feel like one more thing to check off of my list or that I couldn’t do big enough things to make a difference every day. In the interest of my own self-care I am hoping to try this out. I can not continue to be sick, something has to give….

So I just typed all of that and I am going to walk away now. These thoughts and plans will, optimistically handle my mental well-being. My physical health though, that’s where I am seeking healing this day. Will this preemptive resting, this seeking out of peace in advance of illness assist me in not succumbing? I’ve wondered quite long enough. And so I will walk away now, and take a chance or two…

Over the past five weeks I have made some changes in how I care for myself. There have been many frustrations along the way, the assumed bronchial infection that I’ve been living with has fought hard against my measures to break it down and expel it from my life. Taking up residence in strange places and providing an interesting look at how a body works when we let it. I am hopeful that I am near the end of the residual side effects. I am feeling closer to well than I have in a very long time, and I am grateful. I still do not take enough time to care for myself, looking at a day and seeing all of the reasons why I should not seek quiet instead of looking inside my soul and seeing the one reason that I should. I have allowed myself to trust that the process is working and that is a big step for me.

As I look back over the past five weeks I wonder over how my body works, over the strengths of both habit and bacteria. More time is needed, forgiveness too, of myself in the amount of time I am taking to get back to good. I have been living unwell for a few years now, I suppose healing will not come in only a few weeks. I can take the time, walking slower than I thought I’d need to, leaning into my own heart and not allowing the rush of the world to make me feel that I am healing too slowly. That is a good lesson to be reminded of. Peace, and wellness, comes in trust not through fear… or hurry… or anxiousness. I know that all of those will build up inside of me in the same way and they will not bring about good.

I am wondering more. I am reading more. I am giving myself up to the tiredness and I lay down to sleep. I am making a plan to wander more and the inevitable garden sketches of deepest winter are making their way onto paper. I don’t manage three things for myself each day; I don’t know that I will reach that goal while my children are small. I have begun allowing myself a few minutes of quiet after lunch though and just yesterday I lay down on the living room rug as the winter sunshine poured through the windows. Yes my tiny promptly plopped down on top of me and within minutes my other two were sprawled next to me. I quickly reminded myself that they can’t steal the sunshine from me. That’s a good lesson too.

If you need peace for your mental or physical health I’d love to chat about what you’re doing or let you in on what is working for me in this season. If you need prayer to find that peace I’d be blessed to come alongside you. From the deepest part of me I know how sicknesses can build, one on top of the other. Exhaustion, lack of self-care, continually putting the needs of others before your own…in mothering we do all of these things and there is no end in sight. There are too many words written here to begin how a closer and stronger community of women would benefit each of us. It will come soon, the community piece is a large part of why and how I am choosing to seek wellness. For this day, I will sit with my coffee for a few extra minutes, waiting for the late-rising sun, trusting that even if I am still unwell- doing good for myself is not wasted energy.