Recently

Last I mentioned, things were hard out here. I was so sure that this move was the right thing for our family and that God would use it to help ease a few of the struggles we were having as a family. In a way I was right, He has had His hand in this placement, I so easily forget that God bringing about what is good is not always smooth or easy or pleasant for me. Often these changes are hard. That’s where we’re at now; in the clearing of what was less than God had for us. It is a damned hard place to be.

I need to focus on the good for as long as I can this morning. See, the overwhelm of the hard is spiking my anxiety, causing days of tears and nights filled with well, not sleep. The good though, it’s here. I’m going to spend a moment listing it out, in the hope that it will get me through this day. And, maybe, you’ll see your own good even in the hard because you spent a minute with me. Hear me when I say that the good does not outweigh the hard. If you’re in a season of difficulty I will not minimize that for you. Some of life pushes us to the brink of our sanity or tolerance or ability, this is why we need each other, this is why we are better together. If you’re in that season…I hope you feel my presence right along side you, you are not alone.

A little of my good, or what’s getting me through:

There has been much more outside time. Days spent in late winter sunshine have helped a tiny to sleep, which allows me to sleep better. The wider outdoors have allowed me to have genuine joy in simply being. Wandering the woods and setting up a garden have opened my eyes again to the small, the often unseen. The children will, occasionally, disappear into the trees. This is all I’ve ever wanted for them – to be out for hours at a time, no agenda, no plan, no oversight – I think, that if I’m quiet about it, they will do this more and more often as the daylight lengthens. There are things I want for the outside, trees and seeds, tools and equipment. Having this space has allowed me to ask for these things and has allowed others to provide them to me, this is something I have not been great at; always a happy helper, not a great receiver of help. This is growth in me and I recognize it and am grateful. There is more, much more, that I could credit to the sunshine and dirt on my knees, but I’ll hold it close for now.

There has been more togetherness. We cut our inside space by quite a bit with this move. I can’t recall what the square footage loss was from our last home to here, but it is significant and deliberate. We do most our indoor life together, the children are close at hand at all times. While sometimes this can add stress, I remind myself frequently how much I wanted us to grow closer as a family. Without indoor rooms to escape to we deliberately provide actual space for each other when it is needed. We have had to work through some hard things, because we could not escape them by walking away. This has been a good lesson for us all, though a tough one. I yell less, because we are all right here, there is no need for shouting. I see the relationships between my children deepening and my heart cries out with joy and a simple prayer that this would last.

Laughter. This one has been tempered with a lot of tears on my part. For reasons known only to God I have needed to cry a lot over the last few months, but I have also laughed. One of my sweet husband’s best traits is his ability to make me laugh. He truly knows just what to say to start me giggling. My children have latched on to this and they become more silly, more sarcastic, more humorous seemingly by the day. They all bring me so much laughter, so many smiles and add a lightness to our days that I don’t know how to be adequately grateful for. The children also laugh together sharing inside jokes and stories with one another. I love this to no end.

Responsibility. This one I look to my children and see clearly. I have allowed them to step into more mature roles with this new house. They have a different accountability than they did before, and while the differences are small right now, I see them stepping up and can believe that they are ready for more. The Summer months will push them past their comfort levels I believe and I am excited to see how they grow into the responsibilities I have planned for them.

Over the last couple of days I have felt the responsibility to care for myself deepen. I have dealt with anxiety for, well, a long time, and I have my tricks and secrets to manage it. I’ve been working those for several months now and the hard keeps piling on, with little opportunity to work through one thing before another struggle is added to the heap. I have deliberately and consciously laid these hardships at the feet of Jesus. I believe that He has taken this load from me, that He never intended me to carry all of this, that I am meant to walk lightly, to be light. I believe this deeply, it is, in fact, at the core of who I believe God is and how He loves me. I also believe that the devil is actively at work in our lives, he is trying to steal us away from the One who made us. I know the evil one is the source my anxiety springs from. The responsibility tie-in here is that I am being over-powered by this evil. I see it, I know that I am not strong enough, even with all of my tricks and plans, to cast him off this time. I know that I have a responsibility to myself and that I need help. I have asked a few close friends to pray and I feel their prayers at work. I have opened up about how I am struggling to a couple of you and have recently asked you to hold me accountable for different things. I have made commitments to myself, like sitting here scratching these words out. Being responsible to myself in this way is new and requires a constant awareness to not let this plate fall.

This list is not long, but it is good. It is honest, and feels like the right way to begin warding off this negative, this hard, this evil that seeps into my heart. I’ll need reminders, I’m sure. I don’t feel the tears pricking the corners of my eyes right now though and that is a first in more than a handful of days. The space I’m in will need all of this goodness. There is room for it, next to the hard. In laying down so much of the other and choosing not to pick it back up, I can see how God is holding me too, not just all of my stuff. This is the thing I needed, why I was sitting here tapping out sentences. He holds me, and when I can see that, I am truly light.

Most of you thought I’d disappeared

Let’s be honest please. Most of you didn’t even realize that I was gone. I like to pretend that I told each of you that I was turning it off, shutting down my world to fewer than seven people. Or I did pretend that. It’s got to a point that it doesn’t matter anymore how few people have checked in or touched base. I’m at peace with this small world I’m occupying.

It is hard to be the one who makes sure everyone is okay, when you’re not okay yourself. I live in this world most winters so I had an idea of how this quarantine would go. It is okay, I do understand, you have to take care of your own family, your own mental health, there isn’t much left over at the end of the day for anyone else. Especially if you feel like everyone else is doing at least as good as you are.

Something struck me this morning as I boiled water though, this thought that as I have dropped off the societal map, no one seemed to notice. Is what I have done in my circle unimportant? Does it matter even to one person? I will acknowledge my close friends have stayed close and a couple of good friends have tried. I will further acknowledge that I did tell a small handful of friends that I was shutting off my platforms for digital socializing as they were causing my anxiety to peak in ways that I couldn’t get a handle on.

It makes a person feel insignificant. When you have spent several years bringing people in and caring for them, even in small ways. Helping them to feel they belong, giving them a place to just be, pulling others around them to shelter them and lift them up and give them a home in friendship….and no one calls or sends a text.

Why do we do this as a group? Why can’t we care for our extended circles when we are not in physical contact with them? Why do so many people fall so easily off of our radar and out of our good intentions? I’ll admit it likely seems that I have chosen to ignore most of the people I associate with. I know my why and I know that many of you have something similar that you’re dealing with, or something harder.

This ramble was written in April of this year. At a point where my anxiety was being managed by “duct taped and chicken wire” and I needed to get out the thoughts but not actually share them because they were too harsh for a hurting world, too personal for my closest friends. I am doing better now, managing in healthier ways, finding the balance between isolation and a previous normal. But I know not everyone is doing better, and I can understand why.

Looking back I see how we all really are doing our best. No one can be everything they want to be all of the time. Something has to give and our own immediate circle must come first.

This post was never finished, never edited carefully, never really meant for your eyes, I leave it here for those who need it now, still, again. I’m sharing these thoughts today in case you’re feeling alone where you are. Under the normal crush of winter and fears of global pandemic. Know you are loved. Trust that I am praying over you, yes you.

The Third of the Series

Last night my teensy asked her daddy for the big box in the garage. She’s been waiting for it for quite awhile, but this was the day of his “yes”. She was ready. She had a plan. She was making a boat.

I was emotional and feeling very weighed down as I tried to turn leftover rice and veggies into something my people would eat without complaint. You know part of it; the govenor in my state just outlawed gathering together with anyone, anywhere for the next four weeks. That is A LOT for me to try to wrap my heart around. There was more that was hard for me personally, but that’s for another day.

As I blinked back hot, stupid tears, I looked past my kitchen and saw my teensy, blankets and books pulled into the box with her. She had made her boat. For just one moment it was perfect. She was quiet and content in her boat on her imagined sea. I smiled and snapped this picture. I didn’t want to disturb her, didn’t ask her to turn and smile for me. I just let her be there, rocking gently on the waves.

As I went back to stirring I was thankful that she was able to escape all of my “no’s” and “not right now’s” in this simple and effective way. While I may wish for an actual boat on an actual ocean to take me away from my highly emotional days, I was reminded that I don’t actually need to run away. Just find the quiet that is here and accept it as it is.

I know that I’m not the only one struggling in these strange days. Please know that you are not alone. If I can help, I will. I am here with and for you. I miss you, and I am praying for the good and the gathering and the grace to return.

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!