Contentment

Y’all have been here for awhile. You know me. I don’t like the cold. I do not look forward to sweaters and boots. I could easily walk away from this state for several months each year and live happily (don’t worry, I’m not going to do that). Last winter was a hard one for me, I went into it with a much better attitude and I held onto that positivity well into January. The season dragged on though, it always does. Do what you will to save your own sanity; stay in Autumn until the winter solstice, reach out and grab Spring while there is still a foot of snow on the ground. The ice and snow, sub-zero temps, layers upon layers…I can not love it.

I do hope to avoid the endless slog of sadness this winter though. I’m going to make an attempt to photograph and write about the things that bring me joy. Joy on the journey; that’s sort of one of my “things”. I don’t know exactly how it’ll go, but I have some ideas. My hope is that in sharing the things that are beautiful and warm and meaningful here on this page I can stay afloat just a bit higher this year. I want to look at this winter as a season of rest, a time to nourish and refresh. Instead of as the cold, dark place in my soul that I fall into and struggle to escape.

Please understand that I will not anticipate or be loving the winter, but I’d like to do more than survive it. The last few days I’ve felt myself slipping into bad winter-time habits; hiding indoors, sending my children out while I stay in, bundling myself in with books and blankets, not stepping out around the fire on the deck for fear of the chilly bite in the air. I am not going to do this for the next six months, I am not. I mean, except for the book part…totally going to do that.

As Autumn continues to swirl the yellow leaves in my yard as opposed to swirling snow I am choosing now to look at each good thing for what it is, not at what it is not. The leaves are crunchy under my feet, my scarf is soft and warm, the sky is clearest blue…these individual joys hold merit on their own. They do not have to be made better by comparing them with the cold-that-is-not-quite-yet-here. I know this now, but I’m posting reminders on my calendar to come back and reread these words, lest I forget.

My attitude change toward winter is a hard fought battle for me, you all know. Earlier this Summer, in deciding to stay, I found that Paul’s words came to me again and again; “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” (from Philippians 4). Don’t get me wrong, winter is nowhere near the conditions Paul is referring to, I get that. I will not compare my minuscule “suffering” to his. What I did do though is realize that my struggle with winter was not what God wanted from or for me. Yes, I believe He wanted to hear all of my complaints, to trust Him for a way out, to listen to His peace spoken in the still, small hours of frozen mornings. He also wanted me to learn, to grow, to not stay in that place where I could not, at least, be content regardless of the weather outside.

To be content has become my goal for the season ahead. I am reminding myself that contentment comes from Christ. I can (and oh! have I) worry over all. of. the. things., but this will bring my soul no rest. There is no contentment in my old fallback anxiety. I worry still, that I will succumb to the darkness and despair over the winter as I have in the past. In this worry I remembered some more of Paul’s words though and they reminded me how very not-alone I am. Both in my hatred of the season and in my desire to find joy in it.

“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (from chapter 4, verse 14)

I have an amazing circle of women who I will rely on to keep me on a positive track and who will allow me to complain a bit too. I am hopeful that they will continue to “share in my troubles” and that we will lift each other up without fear of giving too much. I will beg a lot of grace from my family when I don’t want to go out, and they remind me of these words, and I regret writing them because it means actually bundling up and going out, and they will give it because they are so, so good to me. It will be so good of all of you to share in my troubles.

Ultimately, I have no idea how to make this Minnesota winter, and the many I can see in my future, positive. I’m open to suggestions that do not involve actually going out into it! I’m looking for ideas that will be fulfilling, while remembering who I am fundamentally. So, while I will likely take the kids ice skating a handful of times, I have no desire to purchase snowmobiles or an ice fishing shack. Though I will take them sledding, I will still be happier to make the cocoa when we get home. There will be long underwear under my jeans and there will be stocking caps on my head until May, and I refuse to be happy about either, but I will choose to be content in the love and peace God continues to offer me.

My kids on the beach in South Texas last year…one of my favorite wintertime memories!

Ache

This past week is the time when I do some of the most difficult remembering of my year. I tried to tap it out here, thinking that it would help to explain my perceived melancholy. Instead it brought a deeper sadness, a more frequent ache as I thought over the words I had typed. I could not share those words with you; not here, not in this way. I also could not share the words when we were together because after thirteen years it seems that I should have come to more of a sense of finality, acceptance, peace even. I know those of you who will tell me that I could have said something, I should have told you how sad I am, and to you I can only nod and know that I would say the same. Yet there are no words.

There are no words to explain a thing that has settled into my very soul. It is an ache that I no longer feel, it simply is a part of who I am. It is a piece of the person I have become, I don’t mind it. It is a reminder that I can do the hardest of hard and come out of it alive. I tried to write “better” there, but I am only thankful to have made it through with my heart broken and my sanity intact.

I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. How did I come through the most difficult ( I had to stop just now and wonder at this moment that I’m dancing around as truly the most difficult…there have been so many hard things.) time in my life with my mind in once piece? How and why was I able to put all of my pain and the shattered parts of my soul into tidy boxes and continue down the muddy path in front of me? There are those of you who would make jokes over how sane I actually am, but really, why is it possible for me to know this immense grief on top of the long list of other difficulties that make up my life and yet I carry on in a fairly “normal” way.

I’ve been told by a few different people lately that I should read about ACEs. Have you heard of this before? I hadn’t really known there was a name for it, but it would seem that”Adverse Childhood Experiences” are well studied. I dropped a graphic below so you can get the basics if this is as new to you as it was to me. I’m not going to tell you my number, but I will tell you that it was an alarming thing to put a name to. When I started looking into ACEs, I began to wonder how I came to this point in my life. When I look at the resulting negative factors of having grown up with a few ACEs in my life I wonder, why did I end up so well adjusted? I know that there are those few of you who knew me before my divorce who could point out that I brought some of those childhood traumas into adulthood. You could ask if I married to escape the dysfunction that was my childhood. You could even say that in having a divorce of my own I have dropped more beautiful children into this cycle.

You wouldn’t be wrong.

But…you wouldn’t be right either.

There is so much more to me than what I could underline and highlight as risk factors. That is ultimately what I am so curious about. Why do some people go through these experiences and seem to break under their weight? Why do others not? Even siblings don’t always handle the same stressors in the same way. This is something that I am curious about. Is there an inborn ability to withstand these triggers in certain people? Can a small percentage of the population go through childhood traumas and retain the ability to avoid the risky behaviors and mental illness that seem so common to those who go through these experiences? I am hoping to do more reading on this topic because as a person who has gone through some of these things I wonder.

The most alarming part of this should probably be that over 60% of the population has at least one. One out of eight people has at least four. Look over that list again, do you know which person/people in your circle are the one in eight? I am not naive enough to think that everyone in my friend group has a history with none of these experiences and yet I am not ignorant enough to think that all of my friends have some. So how does the general population walk around seeming so unaffected?

I suppose we are seeing that they really don’t seem so unaffected. There are so many people who struggle with anxiety, depression, much more. I don’t question that these things are real and I don’t question the way that people are coping either. Instead I find myself asking what have they gone through? Let me be clear, I have basically zero knowledge of this topic. I have researched very minimally at this point, but I want to understand the hope or resilience or fortitude that some people seem to have inside of them to overcome what they were exposed to as children. Where does that come from?

Over the years, before anyone gave me a name for it, I have thought that a person’s faith in God or some higher power may have been what allows them to carry on. I don’t currently trust that thought to be completely true. While I have believed in God since I was a very small girl there have been years of my life where any amount of faith was questionable at best. My behaviors at times would seem to point to the exact opposite of faith. Whatever that would be, denial I suppose. As I look at the times when my faith was strongest it was most certainly not when I needed to have the closest relationship with my Creator. While I do know that God is what has ultimately held me together, I don’t believe that my faith in Him or in His love had much to do with it at all.

I have asked myself if I managed all of the hardships simply because I had to. I was the oldest child, the one my mother expected to help the most or be the most responsible. Over the years I know that I let her down in that respect, but in my defense I would say that I knew when I could let her down. Looking at it now I can say that I knew because my own failings in this area came at times when she had the most outside support. I did not disappear when she was most alone or broken. A better question would be; how did I know this as a teen? It felt the same then as it does today. I know when she most needs me even still, and I know the support system that she has built around her is much stronger than it has ever been. As I read over this I can see what some of you might insinuate; asking why I need care for my own mother in this way. I will add it to the list of questions I currently seek answers for, and tell you that I simply do. Is it the typical first child belief that they are caretaker and controller-of-situations that made me who I am?

Is it something more? Do certain people have the sight in them to see the other side and how things should really be? Can a percent of those kids growing up with ACEs know inherently that childhood does not last and that they will have the ability to make it good on their own at some point. If so, where would that knowledge come from? A mentor? A support person? Peer groups? I so strongly want to understand, though I know it is likely any combination of factors. How can we give that knowledge or experience to other kids who are coming through their own ACEs today?

I also wonder how much worse it is getting. Children are now growing up with parents who may have been subjected to their own trauma and who are unable to handle it as adults. These parents are passing on some of that same trauma to their children, seemingly unaware of what they are doing. Is that why so many young people seem so ill-prepared to function in today’s world? If so, how can we help to break that cycle? Also, how can we give the young people the hope or fortitude or faith to trust that they can do the hard things that their lives will require of them? How can we quiet the gripping fear, the stifling depression, the overwhelming grief that some are dealing with? Is there anything to be done at all?

Like so many of the other things I write down here, I have more questions than answers about this. I can say that for me, very personally, I know that the struggles I managed from my childhood allowed me to make the most difficult decision that I ever had to make. I can tell you that without having gone through the ACEs that I did I would not have been the strength my family needed. Would someone else have stepped in? Probably. That choice though, knowing that she looked at me and asked what we should do…feeling the weight of it. I know how that event has shaped me, and without the previous hardships I would not have been able to make the choice, I would have been crushed by fear. From doing hard things I knew that I could do this impossible thing.

Why do some use the experiences as tools to get them through, while others see the same experiences as broken pieces of themselves? This is where my curiosity has returned to in this week of remembrance. This is where my mind has settled and what has kept me from falling into the very sadness and brokenness that I’m questioning.

I feel it necessary to profess that my childhood was good. I have almost exclusively fond memories of growing up. When I look at that list of ACEs I know that there were things about the earlier years of my life that should have, could have, made me look back quite differently though. And so I question. I will hope to know what it is that is in me that makes me see the years as overall-good. I will also be thankful. While I have struggled I have also been strong enough to overcome those struggles and I have thus far been able to manage…my life? my mentality? my emotions? what exactly I’m not sure.

This has been a bit rambling, even for me. If you’ve read through to the end I’d hope first that you weren’t hoping I’d wrap this up all neat and tidy and second, that whatever factors have made you the person you are today, you can see them as good. That you can see how hardships give us the ability to endure more hardship as well as an ability to more completely enjoy the good. Perhaps we can even see how much braver and bolder and stronger we are with each difficulty we overcome.

If you have recommendations for me to learn more about ACEs or managing trauma I’d love it if you’d drop me a note.

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.

A Solstice Rambling

What keeps you here? I’d really like to know. As I sit this morning on the day with the least light available to me, the universe sees fit to roll clouds across my sky. I wonder again what keeps me here. I can rattle off a quick list; friends, family, homeschooling laws, summers in the woods, a job that pays the bills, the flowers in my garden…do all of those things outweigh the darkness though?

This is the question I’m sitting with on the darkest day of the year. Just typing those words makes me grab a copy of Robert Frost and reread his Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. While there is no snow to speak of and the weather has been mild, the dark has been deep indeed. How can something as simple as darkness affect a person so intensely? The metaphors for light and dark are easy to type out. Though they have been reflected upon before, I feel I must get them out of my head and onto the page so that this part of me that fears the dark can move forward into the winter with some small semblance of peace.

As I face the Winter; the heavy darkness, I feel in me how quiet the dark actually is. There is growth in the light, this is true, but all things rest in the dark. Why should I be any different? As I sit this morning I am hoping to relearn that not only does my body need rest from the activity and excitement of Summer, but my mind needs a break from the busy as well. While I have slowed us down quite a bit this year, given myself much needed grace to move at my own pace,  I still fill up most of the waking hours with tasks and activities. I had hoped to still our schedule even more this Winter. The darkness will serve as a reminder that not all hours need be spent with work close at hand.

Furthermore, I must remember that in Minnesota, in the Winter, the night is not actually as dark as one might believe. As I wake to care for a teeny who couldn’t sleep and look out at the snow covered ground I can see as clearly as I could during the day. The lights of the city being held close to earth because of the dense clouds overhead make me feel as though the twilight will last all night long. Clear nights are even better. The moon and stars quite nearly blaze down on us as we sit ’round a cozy fire. It’s as if we are meant to see clearly the path before us, walking without fear of the darkness, being surefooted even in the night. If, that is, we are willing to be there at all, out there in the dark.

I had been fearing the dark a little. Knowing how the cold and depth of Winter affect my mental well-being I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to get away from this season. As I sit here on this solstice morning I am choosing to see the glory that could come from the darkness. The glowing good that is coming from the night. As I type, babies sleep late in their beds, the sun hides behind clouds and asks nothing of me. There are no plants to tend, no trails to wander, no far-flung adventures to be had…and that’s okay. Actually, it’s better than okay, it is good.

This quiet darkness affords me the time to be here, to be present in this place and time. More than that, the black and white of Winter allow me to plan, to plot, to explore ideas and thoughts, hopes and dreams, if not fields and forests. The bright night sky is much like a guiding light for adventures to come. I can choose to see it as such anyway. While I may still long for warm Summer nights spent away from home, I can also enjoy these days snuggled in close.

I ask again; what keeps you here? As you look ahead to the returning of the light, from this “the darkest night of the year”, what do you hope for? long for? need? The Christmas tree lights scatter and reflect in the windows bringing more light into the dark world. Giving me one more reason to be present in this moment, in this deepening night. Does the good of the light outweigh the fear of the dark? For me, for now, I believe it does. And maybe, just maybe, there is some good in the dark as well. Look for it with me would you?

Watch for it when the snow is deep, the night is dark and the woods are lovely yes, but perhaps a bit threatening. Look for it when you are far from peace or far from home, whether by choice or circumstance. Keep an eye out when there is no other sound in your head or your heart save the wind and the swirling snow. We need not be burdened by this night, by this Winter. We can use the stillness to reflect on, and set aside those things that are not helping us to grow. We can allow the cold to do it’s own work. We really can friends, and if we will allow it to do so we just might be ready to bloom in the seasons to come.

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My Life is Not Horrible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Reminder of God’s Great Love

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

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

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

Do I always get to understand? No.

Do I always get to like it? No.

Do I always get to be okay? No.

Will it be easy? No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living in the Arctic Circle…No, Really.

What if I don’t want to friends? Several people, over that last couple of weeks have told me that I should simply embrace this cold, that I should enjoy this long winter. They have suggested that I take up snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing. That I should buy warmer clothes, wear the snow pants. That all of this cold and misery causes us to enjoy the short summer more. This is messed up logic y’all!

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If the summer was longer; I would be out there! All of the days that are warm, all of the days that the sun is shining, all of the days that drip with humidity and heat! I would not be longing for cool weather or waiting for the first snow to fall, I’d be soaking in the sunshine, digging in the dirt, splashing in the water! I would not have to anticipate summers arrival because it would have already arrived. I’d be there! I did try to have a reasonable attitude this year, but winter has been unreasonable in response. There has been snow and cold in seven of the past twelve months…why do I live here?!?

I’d love to tell you that I’m trying to tie this rant about coldness to some deeper meaning thought…but I’m not. This is simply me ranting. Aren’t you glad I have access to so many people via this blog? We had these crazy long icicles hanging from our deck-side roof, some of them exceeded two feet in length. After yet another recent snow, and a day of children playing out there, it looked like a small herd of unicorn lay sleeping on our deck under a pristine, white blanket.

 

Today it is melting, but there is so much more cold, wet, miserable snow in our forecast that I just cannot even! One of my bright, sweet girls reminded me that, “God has a reason for all things…”.  I sarcastically, and honestly, replied to her that the only reason I could see for God allowing this relentless winter was to convince me to move away from it! I have no #winterjoy. The depression only deepens and the sadness overwhelms and my own drama makes me want to gag.

I know what needs to happen, big wheels have been set in motion, I will not do this sulking again for the length of an entire Minnesota winter. It’s just not in me. Stay tuned dear friends, the heat of Summer will return!