Over the past few weeks I built some fences. Yep, Me. All by myself (well, the children helped a little and my sweet husband figured out how to make a 70×50 garden a square instead of some wonky rhombus). I feel very thankful for the ability and determination God has given me. I also feel effing achy and sore because that’s a lot of posts to drive and holes to dig and…it’s just a lot, okay?
It took me many hours over several days to build these two enclosures. I had so much time to think and observe. The Donald Wyman Crab Apple went from barely opening blossoms to nearly spent while I pounded posts into the ground. It was such a gift to stand in its shade and enjoy its beauty. The weeds grew, were tilled under (big mistake) and grew again while I strung the fences. The bees came, and the birds, and just yesterday, to cries of delight from my children, the butterflies as well.
I have gates to put up still, three of them, and I don’t really know how that will work out. I learned how to cement a post into the ground, and how in the world I was supposed to be able to use the post driver on posts which were eight feet tall, so I trust that YouTube or some smart person I already know, can teach me how to secure a gate. And I’m waiting that for a couple of days anyway. Today I will stand back and admire what God allowed me to do, I’ll contemplate whether or not it is good to be this stupid stubborn, I’ll watch the monarchs find the milkweed in the pasture.
There is still much to do, everyday I wake feeling already behind these tasks. I did get cool season veggies in the ground (umm, yesterday, when it was 85°, but they’re in!!), but everything else still needs to be planted or brought out of the greenhouse. The yard is a field of dandelion fluff which I will regret to be sure, the main flower garden has been seeded, but will be full of grassy weeds by the time seedlings are tall enough to weed around. Once those chores are done others will arise.
This is why I love Spring and Summer. There is always, always, always something to do. And while I admit that I’d love to sit in the shade on a scorching day with a glass of rum and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation; I’m happy to do the work. Especially now that I bought myself a tool belt, seriously, who knew how much of a game changer that would be.
I feel like the devil might be attacking me. Can I write that sentence? Will my people think I am crazy? I’m worried that most of you will think just that, but after yesterday, I feel the attacks getting stronger and I’m unsure what else it could be.
I’ve heard it before, that the devil doesn’t worry about you when you’re not doing kindom work. He doesn’t throw all he has at you if you’re not on a close walk with God. I think that’s probably mostly true. There are points of my life where I was pretty far from God where I remember feeling that everything was going just fine. And there are other times where I was going to church and doing the correct religious things, but it was mostly just an act I was carrying out, not a true relationship with my Savior, and I dont remember there being much difficulty at those times.
For over eleven years now I have made a very conscious choice to walk closely with God. That walk went from worship every Sunday, serving weekly in our church, kids in youth group to feeling the pull away from the modern American version of church. Even as I left the church, such as it was, I have still walked very closely with God.
Let me be clear, my church was a good one. The people I knew loved God, gave of their time and skills and finances, the messages were Biblically based, they practiced hospitality in a way that only a well-off congregation can. They do a lot of good in their community and in the world. They did a lot of good for and in me. But I sat in my seat on Sunday and I heard it; “I am not here.”. I wasn’t really sure what to do with that information. What I was sure of was that this was not the place for me anymore.
We tried a few other churches, a few other youth groups, but I felt nothing. The intention to do good, to serve God and His people is there, in the church body, I know it is. But I would look around and see the people in the church living these “easy” lives and I would wonder how I fit in, how the broken and the hurting and the poor and the sick and destitute fit into this church body. Truth was every time I looked I saw that these people were simply a project for the church. They weren’t being ushered up the aisles on Sunday morning, they were “out there”, someone for us to help but not bring too close…and that bothered me.
This wasn’t intended to be a post about me leaving the church, but in leaving the physical building and body of what the Westernized church has become, I found a closer walk with Christ and since then I have felt the devil on all sides. Some people tell me I feel this press because I’m not going to church. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer over this and I will disagree with that assertion.
I believe that by leaving the church I was able to step forward on my walk with God.
I’m not encouraging anyone to leave their church, you need to do what you feel led to do, but for me, my days are more filled with Him who sent me. God is so much more present in our lives. I pray constantly day and night, I beg for Him to come to those who need Him. I model (to the best of my ability) Christ’s love and servant heart to my children, to my sweet husband, to my friends.
If you know me and you see good in me, I counter that you see God through me.
As this closeness to God has increased, especially in this last year of global pandemic and the insanity that has come with it, I have gone deeper in prayer than I ever have before, I have walked more and more closely with God and I firmly believe that this is why the devil is attacking me. Whether you think I’m crazy for that or not is on you.
There has been a lot of hard for all of us in this year, I know. We all see these hardships through our own lens, I know. For my family the things that are hard have been targeted to go straight to my heart it seems. They are the exact difficulties that make my anxiety accute and my sadness deepen. I have been mostly unable to pull myself out of this cycle of working through my depression. Everytime I have climbed close to the light something else happens which drops me back a rung on the ladder. It is frustrating.
Through prayer I have come to believe that this is no coincidence, the devil certainly knows that which will hurt me most and is progressively building his attacks against me. Trying to break me. To get me to cry out against my God. To leave Him since He is doing so little to help me…..this is for sure one way I could see it.
Last night I so badly wanted to make a list of all the shity things that have happened in the last six months or so. I began that list in my mind and, thankfully, I quickly heard God’s voice redirecting me. Gratitude is a practice that I keep as one my few daily rituals, it was easy to see that listing the bad would not help me to get out of this cycle, rather how by condemning the devil-the root of these bad situations and circumstances- I could break free of this weighted chain dragging me down.
I needed a cleansing fire.
I needed a cleansing fire to break free of all of these annoyances, struggles, difficulties. And God gave it.
At the end of another seemingly impossible day here on our new patch of land, I was reminded by God’s gentle voice that there is more to come, but that it will be good from here on out. While that seems kinda hard to believe after so many months of being beaten back, I am choosing to do just that. Going forward, the gifts will be good, and the hardships will be handled.
I lay awake last night around one AM, praying for a few of the people on my heart at that hour. While I struggle with Easter as a “holiday”, and even with how the church remembers the death and resurrection of Christ, even I can feel the connection. This feeling placed in me of newness, of beginning again, of the old passing away. This resurrection of new life in me. I will begin again this morning, believing that what is to come in my life, in the lives of those I love, is for God’s good and is born of it.
The devil can continue to push and he may do so, but I know whose I am and I will not be tempted past what I can endure through Christ. Praying for you all, as always this Resurrection Sunday.
I used to sit here each morning scratching out thoughts on a page. Not looking for acceptance, but seeking to hear my own soul more clearly. I haven’t come to this place in quite some time, not that I don’t still have questions to wonder aloud over. Rather, the being simply still was too much amidst the global pandemic and fear mongering. I had thought that the writing was good for me, enabled me to get my thoughts out of my head, work through them bit by bit, and I would say that I don’t doubt that process even now.
My routine had to change though.
Much like yours did I am sure. And so I began, in the early morning hours before my children awoke I would read all of the news articles I could, trying to understand as much as I could. Looking for reassurance in the numbers or potential outcomes. As I was forced home at the end of winter with no friends to visit, no homeschool meetups, not even grocery shopping was “allowed”. My only link to friends and family was social media, something I will admit is not good for my mental health. It pulled me in with cute baby pictures, but then led me down ever-spiraling rabbit holes of conspiracy theories. I could not pick up my phone or sit down at my laptop without feeling my heart rate increase at the fear that was surely waiting on the other side of my device.
Fortunately, anxiety and I are old friends.
I recognized it and what was causing it pretty quickly. I was able to insist I leave my phone on the charger most mornings, that I not open my laptop until the children had spilled their raucous energy into our family space. I’ll admit how hard it was to not know what was going on. I wanted the information; how many people had died, how quickly the virus was spreading, I needed to know how afraid I should be. Except I really, really didn’t.
There were a few days where I had to ask my sweet husband to take my phone from me. A realization early on told me that this routine would not be sustainable. My days could not continue in this overwhelm of information and input outside of my control.
Everything was outside of my control. When I focused on those words I knew that “control” could not be where I swung the pendulum from, yet “out of control” seemed to add only more fear. “Outside” though…that was a word I could start with, and so I did.
Most of my days since mid-March have been spent outdoors. I have dug into the earth while the ground was still cold and heavy and wet and I have felt the weight the soil held deep in my own soul. I divided raspberry beds on a damp, cool, misty morning. Far too early or not nearly late enough in the year to do such a thing. As the brambles scraped my skin and the fog lay around me I knew the quiet sharpness and dense peace of the world was still here, just as it has always been. I hauled mulch and moved plants, I ensured the greenhouse stayed warm and the seedlings grew strong. I built, and rebuilt, a coldframe, and have a better plan for it for next spring.
I stayed busy.
You see, writing keeps my mind hyper-focused on my problem or my concern. That was not what I needed. I could do nothing about Covid-19. There was no real way for me to solve this problem, even for my own family. I needed to physically wade through it. So many friends tried to help, wanting me to Zoom chat or Facetime or come to other online dates. I’ll admit the thought of those interactions still fills me with dread. If that becomes the norm I will have to fail yet again at being normal, because I despise the online interactions. What helped (helps) me most was staying busy. Not as a coping mechanism, please understand. I needed to put all of the anxiety, fear, worry…more into action. I could not sit with it, write it away, it needed to be handled, dug into, moved around. Gardening was the way I have dealt with these feelings. It is, yet again, how I made it through a hard season.
There were also early Spring wanders through state parks with my littles. This walking with small people wakes me back up to what is needed. I’ve read somewhere a poem about how you can not take just anyone into the woods with you, they won’t feel it the same way and spoil it for you somehow. I believe this to be true, but taking my littles into the woods with me is a gift to my heart. They don’t often go my pace, they are sometimes rough-and-tumble when I’d prefer smooth and calm, they occasionally would rather make epic slow motion videos of themselves jumping off a half-fallen log while I could endlessly sit and watch the sun shine through fern leaves. However, the rhythm we have together is made perfect when we go wandering. I have clung to those rambles on some of my hardest days.
I share this today as a reminder to myself, I was not in a good mental place this past spring. I worked through it in a fairly healthy way though. The digging in the earth has sustained me through some of my darkest days. The wandering in the woods has carried me through some of the darkest thoughts. Knowing how I did it “then” helps me know that I will be able to do it again, and I will need to do it again.
Again, I am sharing this because, yes, the days get hard dear ones, but you are still loved, and I am still here for you. We are going to make it to the other side, to see what is out there beyond this muck, together.
I dug in the dirt on November 28th, 2020. That makes this a good year in my book. Yep, that’s really all it takes for me to see the good. Warm days late in November where the soil is not yet a block if ice, where I can peek under the fallen leaves and still find green herbs. I moved some raspberry plants and dug some peony roots in anticipation, took down some chicken wire fence to be used again elsewhere.
This was a good day.
At one point I sat, near the compost pile, in the sunshine, wrapping twine to save for another use, another day. The dog came and lay in the fresh earth beside me for awhile. It felt all too perfect for this world we live in, like I was just a little too blessed or fortunate to live this life. I want to remember that feeling on the days where my trust is lacking, my faith is faltering, my hope for the good dwindling.
There is good. And, for me at least, it is usually found in the dirt.
Climbing days are simply better than book-school days. We kinda forgot this close to us place was here, but now have been back and forth to enjoy it several times in the last couple weeks of hanging on fall. I’ve trusted in the benefits of risky play for my kids for a lot of years now, but sometimes my breath still catches as they climb, the shout to be cautious falling silent just as it is about to be shouted out.
Not that book school isn’t important, but my kids sure do learn a lot on these rocks, as well as in open fields and along riverbanks and up in tall pine trees on the back corner of our in town lot. I need my kids to have literacy and numeracy and I mostly use books and games to teach them those things, but most of the truly important stuff is taught while climbing something.
Trusting yourself is harder to learn from a book. Listening to the cues in your body and from the world around you is more difficult when staring at a screen. Building confidence in your own abilities is just not the same when you weigh math facts against knowing where to put your foot so you don’t slip down a rock wall.
So often I hear people state how learning can only happen in a classroom or can only come from a teacher. Others say that learning can happen in structured activities outdoors, but the child will need to be led or the activity facilitated. I want to just stop with this; Learning happens. It does not depend on me, or you, or us. It simply happens. There is no more needed in that sentence.
I write this down as a reflection for the days when kids need naps more than fractions or snowball fights more than sign language. The days when I doubt what I’m doing here, I will look back and remember that my kids are learning. That they are learning exactly what they need for their lives at this moment and for who they will grow into.
Look at me trusting myself a teensy bit. I must’ve learned that up on that rock pile with my babies.
This may be the last mudpie…and not only for this season. A second Summer in November and an injured ankle gave me the pause and grace to notice this moment for what it is. My baby is six, there may be more mudpies, but this is one of the last for her. I’m thankful that I was able stand on the deck quietly, letting her be little for a little while longer. I wish for her a long life of muddy knees and dirt under her fingernails. Tangled hair and lack of care over it. Mostly, that the joy remains all the days of her life.
It’s simple to make my heart smile. I’ve realized this so clearly over the weeks spent at home.
Let me drive away.
Let me walk aimlessly through nature for hours on end with the people I love (or even alone).
Stop by my front yard with your kids and their smiles and talk for twenty minutes from a relatively safe distance.
Let me do some small, kind thing for you.
A full day spent working hard in my garden…
My sweet husband came home one day after two friends had made short visits and he said that he could see it in my smile. He knew that I’d seen friends and was happier because of it. It was true that I couldn’t stop grinning.
Yesterday my littles and I drove away, took the advice of a good friend and made the trek to a new-to-us state park. We wandered for four hours and could’ve stayed much longer, but the teeny was spent and the oldest had blisters from a bad shoe choice. We loaded back up and took the long drive home. My joy felt bubbly and full in my soul.
What are the things that are bringing you happiness during this messed up time? Have you stopped for a minute to think about it? I know there are more, many more, small things that I find goodness in everyday, but these are the big things. The things that make an obvious difference in my behavior.
I write them here as a simple reminder that there is still goodness and happiness and joy. And so I remember that I have the power to make these things happen. Joyfulness is not dependent on some outside force, I can actively seek out the joy that I am looking for.