What I Want For (All of) Them

Last week I came here and wrote a smidge about our current Summer adventure. How it had slowed us even more than before and how it has me wondering if I’m doing this whole thing right. I want to use the opportunity to be home with my littles to it’s fullest advantage, but not take advantage of the opportunity either.

My sweet husband takes incredibly good care of us, sacrifices and gives pretty selflessly. While the children and I run at the track and splash at the beach and read for hours each day, he is at work. On his days off he squeezes in as much as he can and often doesn’t understand how we can do everything so slowly. I know it makes him a little bonkers when we don’t appreciate how limited his time is. This is something that I need to work on. Not our lack of speed, but being able to move at his pace when he needs us to.

While I do want my sweet man to be home with us more, to be able to go on more adventures, and to learn to slow down I don’t really know how to make that happen. Also, I don’t know that he really wants to spend that much uninterrupted time with us. So I continue to walk slow, to make “less” and “small” good, to sit with him in his own time and space. I do this because I want him to know how grateful I am that he has gifted me (and the children) with this really, really good life.

Not a lot of people would stay at an imperfect fit of a job “just” because it provides well. Not a lot of people would take all of the traveling options sent their way simply because their love wants to wander with her deepest heart. Not a lot of people…but my person. He is a good man.

This whole piece about him needing to work and working at a job that is maybe not his first choice -even though he is extremely good at what he does- makes me think about the littles and our older kids too. What will his sacrifice provide long term? Are our biggest kids following their heart’s desires? Are they willing to live with less to do what makes them shine? Or will they one day be like him? Feeling somewhat stuck?

Those slow littles…will they some day be able to pull a career out of the blue, clear sky that fits their personal speed? Will they struggle at a job that is a poor fit? Will having had this childhood, full of time to know themselves, lead their life choices to be uncompromising, certain, confident? Or will it make “real life” harsh?

They are still small, and no one can say for sure what is to come. This I know with certainty, but I prefer to hope. Hope that time spent in books builds their desire to always learn and be imaginative. Hope that time spent in wandering woods builds a sense of, and desire for, adventure. Hope that being allowed to follow their interests will inspire them to try all of the things and see what sticks.

My first ever post here was about what I want for them and those words ring truer today than ever before. By giving them the time to grow and learn as they naturally would I believe that they will be better able to discern the choices they’ll need to make as they grow. I trust that by slowing down they will be more in tune with their inner rhythms. This all seems overly optimistic, I know.

I’ll also add here that my teeny is not so much keen on my “slow”. She pushes hard and fast from the moment she wakes until the last minute of the day. She has so much that she wants to do, so much to see, so many places to go. Perhaps this is just a factor of her age, fours and fives aren’t really known for their chill. I wonder though if she will follow this faster current and if she’ll be the one to drag the rest of us after her. She certainly has the determination to do so. I also wonder if we will let her do it or if the other children will fight her on this faster pace…they certainly have the determination to do it.

Ultimately, I know that I dont get to say what the kids will do or be. I know they are not really mine in that sense. They are already on their own path. For now it runs parallel to mine, or rather, it continually intersects mine. Sometimes they walk beside, other times they cross over, often they lead, occasionally they follow. I see the gift it is that I get to walk with them at all.

This was quite a ramble friends, I thank you if you made it this far. I suppose what I’m saying is that I want for all of my people to be true to themselves, and that I want to help them on that journey so much as I can. What is it you hope for your children, your spouse, your best-of-friends? How are you actively working toward that goal today? After spending a few days in the writing of this post I can see some places where I am not being as supportive as I should be. There is more that I can do. I’ll put more thought into that as these closer-to-Summer days unfold slow and long. Perhaps after some thought I’ll come back here with an update.

For today? Someone should go check on my flower beds…I imagine the peonies are gorgeous just now.

Beach Days

I’ve been practicing seeing the moments as they fly by me. The past couple of days are a good example of that. So many times I’ve thought about how grateful I am. Even though I had a bad attitude for most of this day and felt overall, in general “blech” there were so many times I felt supremely over-blessed.

First of all I get to wake up in my camper, on a beautiful piece of quiet land. I mean, who’s husband does that? Volunteers to help at a store that is failing, struggling, so that his girl can camp for six weeks?! I guess mine does and I can’t help but know how selfless that is.

Second I get to sit at the beach…in the sunshine…not really doing anything. Sure my kids were whiney and needy and the teeny did lose her cool more than once, but we were at the beach for crying out loud. Do I have any right to complain if I sat on the beach all afternoon? I’m thinking that’s a unanimous “NO!”, right? While I would’ve liked to read my book and take a nap, it was a gift of a day and I can not deny that.

If I typed out all of the small moments that have made these days NOT worth whining over this post would be crazy long. Here are just a couple; I made an amazing sandwich on focaccia (don’t judge my lack of carb restraint) from the local farmers market (yummm) and ate it at the picnic table in SILENCE! I grabbed a great Summer food book at the library, where my dog was not insane for twenty minutes. I sat outside after kids went to sleep with the man I love, I watched a hundred dragonflies dip and dive in the shade. Those are just a few highlights, but man I should not have been the moody, cranky person that I was yesterday.

Today I’ve been I smidge more present. I’ve seen the good and the not-so-good and I’ve not let one outweigh the other. As the rain has held off today we have done some workbook work outside, ran in for more good bread and to check out the local thrift store (where we scored Harry Potter Uno for two bucks!!). The tiny also melted down in epic fashion because her brother bumped her. One child refused to swim because there were people at the beach (wait…what??), and one of the children may be answering all of my requests with negativity bordering on anger (deep breath).

I’ve decided that I will take this trip one day at a time and enjoy all of the moments that I can without letting those annoyances get the best of me. We are settling into our new rhythm and finding the pace that we can sustain on the long hot days.

It is a pretty slow pace to be sure. This has me wondering if I should be doing more with the children, or if I should be working harder, or if I am taking advantage of my situation. All of that makes me think about the kind of childhood I’m trying to facilitate, the kind of life I’d like my whole family to be able to lead. That’s a post for another day though, we are off to the local library now…and then more sitting at the beach I think.

Beginnings and Circles

I sit here typing on my phone-something I really dont like to do. The keyboard always works against me adding letters and slurring my words. I have to proofread very carefully so that the autocorrect feature doesn’t make me look like a moron. It’s a frustratingly slow process, and you’ll still probably catch several errors that I’ve missed.

Today is the day though. The day we begin. The day we set out. The day where we put all excuses aside and go. All of the things have been packed, which is why I am typing on my phone. Most of the things have been cleaned, though not very well. None of the groceries have been bought, but the stores will open soon. If everything works perfectly this is the first of many nights I’ll fall asleep with my head in my camper bed.

I was up early today, sipping my coffee, waiting for the birds to wake up and begin their singing. Sitting in the stillness, seeking a bit of peace and a restfulness that did not come while sleeping. As I tap out these lines I wonder if everything is ready?

…if we are ready.

There is a lot a person needs to do to walk away from their house for six weeks. Most of it is done, but likely not all. I’m not sure how often I will wake in a panic realizing some thing I have left undone. Hopefully not too many. Hopefully I don’t think much about this place at all.

The most difficult part for me is the people, as I knew it would be. Leaving this community makes me cautious. I know I can leave this over-large house with all of it’s sweeping and scrubbing. I know that I can (someday) leave Minnesota and it’s frigid temps without any sadness at all. I can even leave the gardens I’ve cultivated for going on seven Summers; though that one is a close second. The women in my circle though…I’m not sure what life will look like without their daily influence.

In this modern-American culture we tend to think that we can do everything by ourselves, and that we should. I’ve written about this before (here and here and especially here), but community can not be ignored. Indeed it should not. As I think about the ways my people have built upon each other I am overwhelmed. I know we have our struggles, our difficulties, our disagreements; we do life together after all, but the good in the group outweighs the bad of being outside of it.

In the past few weeks I have dug berry plants for and with friends, I have been delivered wood chips, I have gifted garden accessories and other small treasures, I have been saved from an empty gas tank, and I have sold off a million pieces of my life to these friends. I have people to pray for and people who pray over me. I have friends whom I message daily and those whom I wish I could touch base with more often.

This. This I will miss a lot. This I may regret leaving.

I will miss sitting, tucked away in a corner of a yard while children run and scream. I will miss a friend dropping by to my messy, chaotic house with no worry over it. I will miss all of their children. I will miss rushing to a planned event because I want every possible minute with these women. This worries me, makes me think I can’t do it. Can’t really go for good, isn’t that messed up? I mean it’s not, but I spent all of these years aching for this community only to finally have it and then to come to a point where I am in a position to go where my heart calls. Which requires me to start over on so many different spirals of life. Maybe we always need something to cry out for?

I was telling a friend recently how I was nervous to walk away for this season and she kindly reminded me that we will still be together, if not physically. She noted that my circle may be a couple of hours away but that the values we share will hold us close. She was right of course. We will have to work harder to maintain friendships, but they can be maintained. Even grown.

This opportunity to travel (even a bit) and to live smaller is something I have longed for, as most of you know. I can’t pass it up. The need to follow this path and see where it leads beats within my very heart. Who knows what we will learn over the next few weeks? I am excited too.

Often I get stuck in that worrisome place. Seeing only the difficult part of the adventure ahead. I don’t want to do that with this. This chance to be out there, living something that has long called to me is exciting. I see that too. I will be concerned over walking away from dear friends, but! Instead of only worrying, I plan to work. To work on building a larger community for myself, for my family. I mean, there are people everywhere, and most of them probably want the love and the connection I am fortunate enough to feel every day. So, I’ll try to bring it, to build it, to create it.

I’m praying for this opportunity right now. I dont want to get bogged down in the sadness of leaving my people, and I dont want to simply find new or different people. What I am hoping for is complex, I know. That ever-widening of the circle will be difficult to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it too. If you’re close, you know there are still many miles to go but I thank you for being here on the path with me.

And so today is the beginning. The start of a wider circle, a wilder path, a larger wonder.

Or maybe tomorrow, the rain forecast for tonight looks pretty severe…

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.