A Decade in the Wilderness

I have sought after the sun and the waves and the deep, unknown wildness that rests inside of me. This line is probably the truest I’ve spoken here. In all else that I have done over the past ten years this may be the realest I’ve been with you. All beginnings lead to this end.

I’ve been in this exhausted place for a few days now, trying to find the brain power to wash dishes has been tough, which means putting pen to paper is pretty much impossible. Right now I’m watching my teensy play a reading game on the laptop because it means that I don’t have to get off of the sofa. As I’ve been overtired it has occurred to me how very little sleep I’ve enjoyed in the past ten years, and that got me thinking about what I have actually done over the last decade. I thought that might be a list I’d like to read. And since you clicked on my post, now you get to as well!

With my exhausted apologies if there is not a coherent thought in this rambling.

Just over a decade ago I turned 30.

In my thirties I did a lot of hard things, more than I maybe wanted to.

It shouldn’t be the first thing on my list, but the leaving does define the decade I think. Without the leaving, none of this list is possible and so I let it stay at the top, not because the before is what matters, but because all that comes after needs a place of beginning. And so. I left a man who held me down and kept me believing that I could do nothing important. A man who made me believe that I was worthless. My wants did not matter, being quiet and doing his will were what I was here for. The importance of my life does not begin here, but my understanding of the importance of my life stems from this moment in time. In leaving him, I left an entire life that I deserved, that I had built. I walked from friends and family who did not -some who still do not- see his behavior as hurtful, debilitating, controlling. I left my home and my place in the world-however small he had made it. I walked away with almost nothing, except, that walking free gifted me everything.

The decade of remembering begins here: I found the truest love of my life. While this means one thing it also means a few other things. Let me explain.

First it means that I found the man that I love and discovered that we could build a really good life together as long as we continue to choose each other. My sweet man loves me better than I have ever been loved. He knows my heart and cares for me as if I am the most important person on the earth. He wants me to know (like really, really) that I am loved and he is willing to do almost anything to ensure my continued happiness. He seems to know my heart and be as connected to it as I am myself. I hope that I hear his as well, but honestly, I know that he is better at loving me than I will ever be at loving him. That’s overly honest, be gentle dear friends.

Additionally, it means that I found God again, or maybe that I let Him be known to my soul. For most of my entire life I was lost, wandering unhappily. I felt like God was unimportant and like He didn’t care about me at all. In my thirties I discovered that I was wrong. God is here and loves me deeply. My relationship with Him has strengthened far beyond what I thought it could. The love, forgiveness, and peace this relationship with my Creator has brought is more than I could’ve hoped for. I won’t go on about it here as it is deeply personal, and I’m not sure I could help you to understand.

I suppose that it also means that I began to love myself. Can I let that fit into this list? This is one of those things that is as hard to admit as it is to realize. Because of the place I had been (and that man I was finally able to leave), I did not like the person who I was. Now…though I still see my faults first, I am proud of the woman I am. I love the person that I have grown into and I no longer look in the mirror with deep sadness. So that you hear me; I have not walked some path of Spiritual discovery that has taken me deep into the mystic. Rather I have lived a mostly invisible life. Quietly carving out a small place to be me unapologetically. I don’t do amazing things or have thousands of followers, I only sit here early in the morning, reading God’s word, scratching out my own, sharing a few of them with you. I don’t ever really intend to mean a lot to much of anyone, but I now know my worth. I am free of the hatred of who I had allowed myself to become.

Looking back on the decade I remember a few of the, shall we call them “lesser” things that have happened and wonder if they should be on this list of “accomplishments”. I mean…

I helped get two children through their teens and early twenties.

I birthed two babies in my thirties and have been raising my three littles this entire decade.

I have put in the work to let my children learn at home, choosing not to send them to school, but to let this everyday life be their learning environment.

I have helped to create a home that I am happy in, and where others could be happy too.

I have dreamed big dreams; travel being at the top of that list, and let those dreams rest in the safety of the future, for a time.

I have built a community that I once thought I did not deserve. These women are real, and we do our real lives together most every day. I love each of them and value their friendships more than I knew I could.

I have found church homes and left them.

I have moved into three new homes.

I have read stacks of books.

I have invested in the wrong groups of people (though, they were right for the season).

I have walked miles in the wilderness and driven down more back roads than are rationally acceptable.

I have sought after the sun and the waves and the deep, unknown wildness that rests inside of me. This line is probably the truest I’ve spoken here. In all else that I have done over the past ten years this may be the realest I’ve been with you. All beginnings lead to this end. To this stretch of sand and water that are more inside of me than out. I will remember this decade as a time of honest becoming, a time of learning my truest nature, of walking the path leading ever deeper into my own being. There are unwritten thank you notes in my heart this morning. Words that I may never speak aloud to those who have helped, or pushed, me out onto this dirt path to my soul. Maybe they know? Maybe they don’t need to know?

Faith and Relationships

When at once we know we are created and that we are creators we can rest at peace. Knowing that all of life will fall perfectly into place as it has been created in perfection.

I didn’t always believe that God would work all together for my good.

At those most questioning, seeking moments I don’t know whether I searched after God with all of my heart or if I just searched blindly but honestly and found that God was in my heart. I remember spending a lot of time looking and a lot of time in prayer and a lot of time in the quiet, waiting. I still ask God a lot of questions and the more of my Bible that I read the more questions I seem to have.

This I know: God is not afraid of my questioning.

Over time I have realized that my questioning mind has brought me closer to Him, even if I don’t always feel the answers are super clear. I can see now that often the point of the questions; the reason they are put in my mind, is only to bring me closer to God. By seeking so hard for what is true and what is good and, well, so much more, I have spent an intense amount of time with my creator.

I’ve decided in my own heart that this is the only point. For me at least. The point of bringing all things to God, the point of asking Him so many “why’s”, the entire reason for my being…is simply to build a closer relationship with the lover of my very soul. This has helped me accept and process an innumerable amount of personal barriers. Knowing that the bad things will come and the hard days will march along, but that whether good or bad, pleasant or trying, full of snow or sunshine…in taking each moment to God and leaving it there at His feet…a deeper peace is found.

It is freeing to know that all of the hardships and all of the mountaintops are only to bring me to Him. I’m not tapping these keys, telling you that I dont worry or wonder or have days where my anxiety creeps itchy and red up my neck. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m trying to say is that regardless of my worry or wonder I know where to take it, and that has made all of the difference. For me at least.

I don’t know how to share this. How to explain my heart to the masses. I suppose it’s good that only a few of y’all read what I write, there are no “masses” to please. I want to put it out there though. If each moment of your life drives you to your knees or brings you closer to Him; well, then that moment has done what it was intended to do. And you’ve done what you should with that moment. No need to fix it or understand it or examine it further.

Be at peace with your Creator. Trust for today that what He wants is a relationship with you. Or believe it for the next hour if that’s all you can do for now. He is good, believe it.

***I know this post is not what you’ve come to expect from me…this is where I’m at today though. Thank you for reading it through, I am grateful.***

Simple Beauty

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

There’s this Winnie the Pooh picture book about Winter. This is the copy that I read to my littlest child. In the story, Pooh believes that Winter is a snowman who comes to visit the Hundred Acre Wood, typical Pooh. Some of you might accuse me of overthinking, but my take-away from this story book was that I should look at things more simply. Because of how I’ve been feeling lately, it was easy for me to take this thought and make the jump to my health and personal care routine. Though it might be difficult for an outsider to see how I got there.

It was with an idea of simplicity in mind that I left the house the other day to purchase some nice things for myself. I don’t really shop for myself and when I do I usually hit up my favorite thrift stores. This day though I was going to buy skin and hair care products and so I went to the natural-care product section of the market and started reading labels. Let me mention here that I have not spent more than $3.95 on any personal care items in, like, I don’t even know, maybe ever. I’ve been mostly okay with that. I don’t mind my wrinkles as they show how many times my sweet husband has made me laugh and I don’t really mind the gray hair as it reminds me of all the learning I’ve done as I’ve grown and gone through some hard and holy stuff over the years. The reason I was standing in what I would call the “fancy” shampoo aisle was and is because I just don’t feel good.

A lot of how I’ve been feeling is due to too much consumption, while I am actively working to turn that around, some of it is because of how harsh Winter is on my skin as well as my mind, and some of it is just plain bad habits. I don’t wash my face every night, heck! I don’t even shower regularly. While my hair care routine mostly works for me, since I trimmed it this autumn I have been bummed by how “mother-y” it looks. I couldn’t help but feel that something needed to give. I had a gift card tucked away in my wallet and so I spent all of that money on goo for my hair and a bit of make up to make me feel like maybe I do care about myself a little. This was a simple thing, but a big change too.

Since I bought the new things I have remembered to wash my face every night. I have almost looked forward to brushing my teeth regardless of the toothpaste left in the sink by my littles. I have brushed my hair everyday…which is definitely overrated, but I’ve done it because I have felt better about myself for taking seven to ten minutes in the bathroom. It’s weird isn’t it? As mommas it is so easy to get to this place where it’s simply too much effort to put effort into ourselves. I often feel like it’s simply not worth it, but that silly Winter book got to me. Was I making the care of myself too big of a deal? Couldn’t it be simple and meaningful? I needed to understand that the way I’m feeling is at least partially due to the way I am treating myself. I realized that if I wanted to feel better I needed to put in the effort.

By giving myself a few minutes -and a few products- I am reminding myself that I am worth more than what I was allowing. I’m reminded that while I don’t need to look good for other people or listen to societies words about women, I should feel good about me. Am I making any sense here? I didn’t need to make it complex, it only took a few boxes to help me feel worthy of the time and attention I was giving myself. I changed my routine in simple ways, it is no harder to do what I’m doing now than it was before and now I feel a little kinder toward myself when I look into the mirror. I still don’t feel good. I feel run down. My skin is irritated, red, angry. My nails are brittle. My joints ache. I know that to correct all of that I need to fix what I’m putting into my body, but I didn’t feel like I was worth it. No, I felt like it wasn’t worth the effort to take better care of myself. The effort is the thing that was lacking.

Knowing this has made a big difference. It has made me put on actual clothes, and not just walk around in my jammies all day. Okay, not every day, but a lot of them. Knowing that I can do all of my new morning routine in the time it takes my seven year old to make his bed reminds me that I’m not inconveniencing anyone or making us late, it just allows me to yell down the stairs fewer times because my toothbrush is in my mouth longer. Knowing that I can take a little time for myself to feel better on the outside reminds me that I can take a few minutes to make good food for myself, to drink more water, to take slow deep breaths in the still evening air. I can take time for me, I can feel better on the inside as well, the effort is worth it.

In hoping to create a more simple routine I did have to do a little more than I was before, but by looking at my problem with a simpler perspective it became so very clear that by allowing a small amount of time for the care of me, I would improve so many other pieces of my life. I’ve noticed some deeper things in these few days since my trip to the store, things that I probably make too complex. I’m trying to look at these things simply, to adjust each one with just the right amount of my time put in.

That simple childrens’ book…I’m sure the author had no idea that it would cause this kind of self-consideration in a momma’s heart. Perhaps I would have come to this place on my own anyway, I have been feeling pretty miserable. I am grateful for the random places I run across that I can draw inspiration from. When I feel like I’m worrying over the routine or the extra steps I’m taking, I can now offer myself the very simple reminder of the Winnie the Pooh book. Hopefully that will be enough to continue on with the slow process of finding myself.

While a simpler life doesn’t mean an easier life, the effort is worth it.

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

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.