Friday, January 31, 2014

January 2014 Review

Oh, January. Oh, January! It wasn’t the prettiest month for me, but it did end on a BANG! (Click here to read about the highlight of our January: my birthday surprise!)IMG_8682

January had – count ‘em! – SIX SNOW DAYS for my kids. The first four snow days came on the tail end of Christmas break, which meant we had some craziness going on ‘round here. My church/office is closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so I had a lot of catching up to do and couldn’t take a snow day off to do it. The kids spent a lot of time with me at work, and at home while I worked, and at home some more. I’m thankful my job is flexible when we are in dire straits! There was lots of movie watching, even at work (this is in the church lobby).IMG_8650

We got crafty on those snow days, too. I had to get some creative energy out, and bartered some homemade non-slip headbands in exchange for one of Gina’s awesome custom canvases. Here are the headbands I made.IMG_8661

Being snowed in meant our family got to celebrate a milestone together: for the first time, Jackson saw ALL of the Star Wars movies (episodes 4, 5 & 6). He loved them! And, oh… he was in shock when he saw Darth Vader’s real face for the first time!IMG_8829

There was so much snow and it was SO cold that the kids didn’t even get much time to play in the snow. Dan took them out one day for about 20 minutes, and they dug a tunnel in the snow.DSC_0017

We got creative with indoor activities and even pulled out the trusty old bean box we used to play with when the kids were toddlers. Note to self: it’s STILL fun!IMG_8801

On one of those snow days when I took the kids to my office, we put them to work. Katie took down all the Christmas decorations in the kids’ classrooms and was a mighty vacuumer!IMG_8836

They also helped make binders for one of the classes at church, along with our pastor’s kids.IMG_8852

Finally, Christmas break ended and school was back in session. You can’t imagine the giddiness I felt when the bus pulled up. And it wasn’t just me: the kids were thrilled too!IMG_8863a

I got to host a special gathering of women from my church, and we practiced Holy Yoga together. It was a beautiful evening that started as the sun was setting. When we finished with meditation that night, all we could see when we opened our eyes was flickering candles. It was breathtaking!IMG_8910

I came across this and had to take a photo of it. It’s the collection of nametags Katie has saved from the Saturdays she has spent with Dan on our church Outreach team. The team uses duct tape for nametags, and Katie enjoys each serving day so much that she keeps these mementos stuck to her dresser. It makes me incredibly happy to see her enjoy serving others so much!IMG_8901

Dan and Jackson spent some of the quiet January days working on his Cub Scouts pinewood derby car. Jackson did 99% of the work himself (except for one small part of sawing the wood when the curve was too tight). The day of the race, he didn’t win – and actually got last place in each heat. But he ended up winning a medal for the “Simplest Design” and was so proud anyway!IMG_9068

Katie loves to draw. I found this Post-It note in her school folder, and it cracks me up.IMG_8956

Katie also loves canned beans, especially green beans and lima beans. I’m kind of disgusted by how much she loves them, straight from the can.IMG_8955

I think I mentioned in December’s monthly review that this winter has brought some beautiful sunrises and sunsets. This one was pretty spectacular too. I think it *sort of* makes up for the snow overload.IMG_8979

One day, I was volunteering at the kids’ school and saw a wall full of new year’s resolutions outside Jackson’s classroom. The resolutions ranged from “help my mom more” to “be nice to my sister” to “clean my room.” And then I saw Jackson’s, which says he resolves to be an international skateboarder this year. Um… okay… ???!!IMG_9071

And, then… MLK, Jr. Day came and the kids were off and we had big plans to go skateboarding. We ended up at the emergency room instead.IMG_9146

I smashed Jackson’s hand in the car door as we were trying to leave. Mommy guilt is a harsh thing, and my heart hurt so bad every time I looked at his poor finger. The good news is nothing was broken, but the doctors couldn’t decide how to treat it. They ended up using skin glue to seal the shattered fingernail back together, and he wore a splint for a week. (It will take much longer for the mommy guilt to stop chirping!)IMG_9133

Now, to recap January so far: there was snow. And more snow. And really cold temps. Oh, and some more snow. Then a smashed finger, which means we had to stay inside a lot (not hard to do, with frigid temps!) and not be overly active for a while, at least until the finger healed a bit. Cabin fever was NOT our friend. I had to get creative, and FAST! One of the desperate creative ideas I pulled out was to hang a mosquito net in our living room for the kids to make a reading fort. It went over well, and stayed up for a long time too!IMG_9214

We were lucky enough to go rock wall climbing with Katie’s Girl Scout troop, too, which helped get some of the kids’ wiggles out. Jackson was given the green light to take off his finger split, so both kids climbed like monkeys up and down those walls!IMG_9320

The kids had a hat day at school (yes, she has a roasted turkey hat on her head).IMG_9336

A trip to the dentist…IMG_9370

…and January ended with my birthday surprise. It was a great end to a VERY cold and snowy and cabin-fevery month. But before I go, I have to mention one last highlight of January. At the start of the year, I downloaded a new app to my phone. It is called 1 Second Everyday, and it is so darn cool! You take a video every day, then you use the app to snip one second from that video to add to the calendar in the app. Those snips are compiled in to one long video, so there’s 1 second everyday (get it?) in the video. We have so enjoyed this app, and I love using it to soothe my compulsion to document every single day. Here’s a screen shot of the month of January. Our month-long video is so cool!IMG_9384

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Milk and Honey

I turned 40 today. And, you know? That’s not such a bad thing.

As the last few months passed and the big 4-0 loomed larger, I started wondering how I would feel when it was mere days away and the inevitable was staring me in the face. Would I feel desperate? Would I put on a happy face and try to divert attention from the big day? Or would I accept aging with grace and – dare I say it – celebrate?

Two weeks ago, I was listening to this message and my pastor spoke about the Israelites wandering for 40 years. Yes, I already knew the Israelites wandered for 40 years; this is nothing new to me.  But for the first time, the “40” hit me differently and I realized the Israelites wandered for as long as I’ve been alive. That would be like me wandering for 40 years and never knowing my home, never having a foundation or a place of permanency. I thought about spending 40 years living in Temporary and Waiting, and then thought about the joy and anticipation of knowing that 40 is coming to an end and the land of milk and honey is finally within reach.

Even though I have been been much more comfortable than the Israelites, my 40 years have been a wandering of their own as well. God has been leading me to a place I can’t quite see yet, but I know He’s faithful and His plans will never harm me.

Each of the previous decades of my life came with a unique set of challenges and growth. My first decade was childhood and my initiation into the world. My second decade was marked with independence and learning as my eyes were opened to His existence and my place in His creation. My third decade was separation from the life I used to know, a false understanding of the way the world was “supposed” to work, and separation from a God I thought was harsh and unloving. My fourth decade has been reconstruction. Parenting shattered my sense of self, grief continued to sculpt me, and Love remade me.

Two weeks ago, I decided to look at 40 with anticipation, knowing my own personal “milk and honey” is within sight. I know this milk and honey won’t be smooth sailing, of course. Life never is. Someone’s gotta milk the cows and shoo the bees, right? Joshua led the Israelites through many battles in order to conquer the Promised Land. I’m pretty sure God’s got some Jerichos for me to battle and some Jordan Rivers for me to cross. The water’s gonna rise and the walls will tumble down before this journey is over.

I don’t know what those battles look like yet. I don’t know the heartaches and the losses that are mere steps ahead of me. But I do know this: God, my Rescuer and Redeemer, my Lover and my Friend, my Savior, my Prince, my Father, Papa, Abba… HE knows. He cares. And He’s never going to leave me. He has carried me through the wilderness. He has sustained me with His manna. He didn’t give up on me, even when my wandering led me away from Him. He has been patient with me, His disobedient daughter. He has been merciful when I deserved punishment. He listened when I whined, and cried with me when I wept. He never convicted me of the wrongs I made or the hurts I caused and, instead, gently instructed me how to live without causing so much destruction and terror.

The work isn’t finished yet, thank God. There’s still much sculpting to be done and many more lessons to relearn (not just learn, but “re”learn because, apparently, I need a lot of practice before my stubborn head can finally get in step with His rhythm).

I’m no longer wandering. I have a clear purpose and Leader to follow until He takes me home to the eternal Promised Land!

Thank You, God, for seeing me as worthy of saving. Thank you for loving me so much that You didn’t leave me behind. I am grateful that you rehabbed me and restored me. I pray that You will revitalize me and use me to do the same for others. Amen.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Both and Neither

Almost a week ago, I wrote that this season of my life (and specifically this past year) has been difficult and dry. I’m parched and weary, even when the rain is pouring around me. I am in the middle of a flood and dying of thirst. How is that even possible? I am in what should be one of the most joyful, fulfilling chapters of my life: in a covenant marriage, raising children I longed for, working at a job I prayed for, and being used by a merciful God to speak love to others. And yet, I’m thirsty.

One of the areas of my life where I struggle most right now is parenting. Specifically, it’s in parenting Jackson. I won’t go into all those reasons, because at the end of the day he’s my son and he is loved and wanted. He is a good boy, which I – literally – have to say out loud to him because sometimes he believes he isn’t.

There have been a few blogs I’ve read recently (and will link at the end of this post) that encouraged me and breathed fresh air into my gasping lungs. One I read this morning made me stop and immediately feel the need to write my own thoughts about my role as a mother. One day, Jackson will read this and I want him to understand the WHYs behind the WHATs that he remembers from his childhood. So, this is for him.

I’m your mother, and I live in the tension of opposing roles in your life. I am a blend of those roles: some days I’m 92.3% generous and 7.7% selfish, and also 64.8% irritated while being 35.2% gracious and forgiving. I can also be 12% giggly and 88% exhausted. (Dude, this math thing is hard!) Tomorrow, the math may be completely different as the pendulum swings a different way. Sometimes even I don’t know which way the pendulum will swing, and that’s because you keep me on my toes. I am the buffer between you and a harsh world, and some days require more buff than others.

I’m your defender, but also your accuser. I know your heart so well that when I come across a mess, I jump to conclusions accusations that you probably did it. But in that same breath, I defend your actions because – again – I know your heart so well. I know you likely didn’t make the mess on purpose. You were excited and exuberant about making Daddy a Christmas gift. Or building a fort to surprise Katie when she arrived home from choir. Or making a LEGO creation that can zoom and shoot real! rockets!

I am your friend and your foe. I am both and neither. I am your defense. I will go to the mat for you. I’m your mom, which means I am every opposite rolled into one: defender and accuser. A safe place and a challenger. Soft arms that envelop you while also keeping you at arm’s length when boundaries are needed. The wall you push mightily against for freedom, and the wall you tremble behind for protection. Proactive and reactive. All at the same time.

I do this because I love you. Because it’s good for you (and for me, too). Because it’s my job. And because it was done for me.


Blogs for encouragement:

Finding Joy’s Why Being Mom is Enough: They don’t see you stand in the bathroom and gather your resolve every morning. They don’t see those of you who mother alone without much support. They don’t see the trips to the car back and forth and back and forth. They don’t see you counting to ten a dozen times before noon. They don’t see you look at the bank account and sigh and try to figure out how to make three meals with what’s left in your pantry. They don’t see you walking into the principals office, doctor’s office, friend’s house and defending your child. They don’t see bandages placed on knees. Kisses on foreheads at night. Pillows pushed just the right way and blankets tucked to the perfect demands. Laundry folded and folded and folded. Tears that sting your eyes as your keep going. Dinners prepped over the stove. Times of laughter over silly things. Hair brushed and pulled back into pony tails. Prayers over wandering teens. Prayers over little babes. Nights spent sleeping in a chair holding a sick child. Days where the house is a wreck but you’re reading books. The brave smile on your face when you’re weary. Those things matter. Those things are the little things that add up and and up and up. I say those things are enough. (See also Dear Sweet Mom Who Feels Like She Is Failing)

Jen Hatmaker’s Relational Repair for the Difficult: I will settle something: This cannot be about making her change; this is entirely on me. If I’m waiting for my awesome prayer vigil to slow down the hourly interrogation tsunami, I’ve missed the point. This isn’t about behavior modification, because the second she regresses or holds me hostage in her bizarro time-clock-calendar-countdown-schedule lair, I’ll despair. The only person I can change here is me. I cannot pin my emotional burden on her behavior; that is unfair. Are you tormented waiting for your person to change? That is a fool’s errand. Imagine your person is never going to change. Not one bit. That thing you hate? It’s forever. Those habits and attitudes you can't stand? Make your peace. NOW, you can deal with you. Take someone else’s reform entirely off the table. Do you want to live angry or frustrated or naggy for the rest of your life? Because the fact is, we cannot change anyone else. We are only in control of our reactions, our emotions, and our perspectives. The ball is in our court, and the only one keeping us in Emotional Prison is ourselves.

Hands Free Mama’s The Bully Too Close to Home: If you think that criticizing, belittling, or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter, or more valuable, please reconsider. If you think badgering, bullying, or constantly correcting your child will make him or her more likable, more confident, or more successful, please reconsider. Because the truth is this: It’s hard to love yourself with a bully breathing down your neck. It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed love you unconditionally doesn’t. It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up. If we want our children to become who they’re meant to be, let’s ease up. “Nobody’s perfect” can be two of the most empowering, healing words when said to oneself or to another human being. Let’s stop the ridicule. Let’s stop the relentless pressure. Let’s stop the impossible pursuit of perfection. Only love today, my friends. Only love today.

Cara Joyner’s The Unfiltered Picture We Already Live In: We know this is reality, but occasionally, we forget that everyone else is living in the same reality as us. And when we forget how real everyone else’s lives actually are, we become disillusioned with our own stories. Somehow our lives begin to feel unusually ordinary, and we may buy into this idea that others are living a pinterest board life we dream of but cannot attain. As if they exist in some sort of instagram utopia, while we scrape by in a world of dirty dishes, backed up toilets, and uncooperative children. And from this place, we become discontent. We are all living in the same unfiltered picture; full of earth, tears, sweat, pain, joy, fear, and mystery. Their life is just as gritty and bland as yours. And your life is just as beautiful, complex and exciting as theirs.

Andrea Nair’s Seven Steps to Being Less Hard on Our Kids: One of my mentors the other day asked, “What radio station are you emitting over the air waves? Stop-Annoying-Me? I-don't-have-time-for-this? Life-sucks? or J O Y?” People can feel what we are giving off. It seems to me that children can really pick up the vibes their parents give off. When we are aware of the station our head and body are on, and have a plan to alter that, connections improve all around. (And her tips for Calming Down When Our Kids Are Ramping Up are convicting too.)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Drip by Drip

Things are not good right now. Life isn’t horrible by any stretch, but it is difficult and wearing on me. I feel like I have no room to complain because I know so many others who are facing tremendous pain and struggles: a 6-month-old going through cancer treatments. Job loss. Abuse. Adultery. Life-changing diagnoses. Lyme disease. Back surgery. Divorce. Infertility. Death.

My burdens pale in comparison to those struggles. Honestly, I feel like I should shut my mouth, lower my head and keep plugging away at life. Except I’ve already been doing that and I don’t feel any better. In all honesty, “plugging away” makes my heart feel more alone. Darker and smaller than normal. Maybe airing it out will help. Here goes.

2013 was a darn sucky year. Yes, I’ve had worse. 1996 and the four following years are benchmarks of misery for me. In most people’s lives there are years that suck because of a single major crisis, but this year wasn’t like that. 2013 bled me dry, drip by drip. Crap just kept happening, and a lot of it wasn’t made public because I didn’t want to look like a whiner or like I was ungrateful for the good things that did occur. But when I think back over the last year, the overarching theme can be summed up in one word: isolation.

I haven’t written a lot of deep posts on my blog this past year. Writing is soothing therapy for me, but I haven’t felt the freedom to be honest with my struggles because of privacy issues with the people involved in these struggles, plus not knowing who exactly is reading this blog. Just when I think I’m pretty much the only person who knows it exists, someone will mention it and then I’ll remember I can’t give full disclosure here. But here are the main highlights low points:

Jackson’s diagnosis. Dietary changes. Intense changes at my job. A family member’s abusive relationship. “Breaking up” with a close friend. Starting to lose my eyesight. Medication changes. Increased hours at work. Pre-cancer procedure. A family member’s lupus diagnosis. Tax surprises. An emotionally painful mistake.

I’ll summarize it: I’ve been wrestling a lot with God. Not with the concept of Him (my faith in His existence has never wavered), but with His direction for my life. I’ve asked “why” a lot, although lately I’ve stopped asking “why” and just took whatever new crap has been thrown at me… like it’s a punishment I somehow deserve. He could be ripping open the glossy veneer to show me the rot in my subflooring. Or maybe He’s been trying to buff out the selfishness in my heart. I’ve been wondering if this year was a lesson in humility. My pride is an idol that blocks the door to His workshop in my heart, so maybe He allowed some of this pain to happen as a way to unblock the door.

  • Maybe Jackson’s diagnosis was meant to remove the pride I take when my kids are well-behaved and under control. (Yeah, like THAT happens often!)
  • Maybe the dietary changes were meant to show me the ways food is an idol in my life.
  • Maybe the job changes stripped away comfort in order to show me God is the only safety net I need.
  • Maybe the abusive relationship was a way for God to tie my heart closer to my loved ones.
  • Maybe the break up with my friend was God’s way of showing me that earthly friendship shouldn’t take the place of His friendship. What if he wanted me isolated so I would depend more on Him?
  • Maybe losing my eyesight was a gift and got me off medication that was doing long-term damage to my body.
  • Maybe the painful mistake I blindly made was the reminder I needed to stop putting my trust in the wrong places, and a reminder that I really don’t have it all figured out and I’m not in control.
  • And maybe all the other crap was just an extra bonus Satan threw in to keep me down and turned away from my Refuge.

Heck, I don’t know! I keep hoping God will make sense of things soon but I know that even if my “soon” isn’t the same as His, every single struggle from this past year will eventually be used for His glory. I have to believe this pain isn’t for nothing and that it will be used in some way, some day. I see glimmers of that truth every now and then, like the woman at church I’ve been walking with as she took her son for testing and got a diagnosis that breaks her heart the same way Jackson’s continues to break mine.

Please, dear God, make this ache go away. And if you can’t make it go away, sit in the muck with me and help me endure. Please bring respite soon!

Where there is loneliness, help me feel Your presence.

In the places in my life where I feel like a victim, please empower me to take action. I want to respond to the ways You initiate movement in my life.

When I feel under attack, please go to battle for me.

When I can’t even find the words to ask for Your rescue, hear my groans and turn them into prayers.

Please, God, give me hope! I am desperate to know if I’m where You want me to be at this stage in my life. Do You want me to stay put for just a little longer, or is it time to move forward in some way? Speak boldly and plainly so I can differentiate Your guidance from my desires and fears. Give me vision to see Your ways, and trust to follow You.

I’m afraid to even ask this, but is it too much to request You do something big in my life? (And by big, I don’t mean more painful. Please not that!) Open my eyes to see You, God.

Help me be a leader for You, knowing You are my ultimate boss and my righteousness. I want to be courageous enough to stand alone even when no one else supports me. Help me speak truth when it’s necessary, but shut me up the rest of the time.

Help me obey Your will, even (especially!) when it seems contrary to what I want. Please show me the way out!

Thank You for hearing my prayers and for not thinking I’m a whiny baby. And when I am whiny, thank you for rocking me like the baby I am. Amen.


Related Posts with Thumbnails