Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Keeping it real. Always.

One of my goals on this blog has always been to show the Real of my life-- even when it gets messy and unpleasant. Same goes for my Facebook page. Y'all have seen my bedhead, my messy kitchen, my unibrow, my totally unorganized homeschool day, and the level of my children's expertise with their housework.

But I'll confess that there are still some emotions, some experiences that I do filter out. Sometimes because the stories aren't mine to share, sometimes because I feel that the emotion contained within a written statement or article was a lapse of faith and does not actually reflect the Real of my life in Christ. Today I want to crack the door on a little of both-- and share an excerpt from a post I didn't published this month last year, and share a little victory that is wrapped up in someone else's story.

First, last spring I wrote the following-- less than a year after we pulled up roots for a second time, in the midst of a sense of defeat in my attempt to re-root here in the new place.

~June 2016~ 
Raising children uses you up.  
Ok. Maybe not everyone. Maybe this is just me. Maybe I am a little lazier than the average. I find that my creativity, self-discipline, motivation and ambition is all directed toward my kids and keeping our house running as smoothly and possible, so that at the end of the day I flop onto the couch in a daze and I spend the evening pretty much just staring at a page or screen. And let me disillusion you, the book is rarely any great work of literature. Basic pop fiction, at best. 
I remember things being different in years past. I remember crafts, writing, music and gardening all being a way to relax and recharge, a refreshing return to adult pursuits after a day of caring for little children. Why is it different now? 
Sometimes I look at my hum-drum life and feel a burden of guilt over the waste of my life's potential. Generations of musical talent. Hours of practice. For what? My own sons can't carry a tune. Why don't I sing with them? I don't know. They aren't interested. It would be another thing I would have to carry them through, motivate them, nag them, use what few sparks of creative energy I have to light THEIR fires. And I feel inadequate to the task. Vastly, unattainably inadequate. 
As it is, I can barely get through THEIR music/math/language/reading. I finish their school day at 2:30 and what do I have left to spend on myself? Exercise? Hobbies? Music? Art? Well, I have to take care of the household chores, communicate somewhat with the outside world (emails, phone calls, appointments, etc), go pick up Sofi, be her mother for a few brief moments. Run errands? Grocery shop? There's always something. And then dinner. And bedtimes. And barely enough sleep to drag myself out of bed again the next day to start it all over again. 
By the time the children are in bed for the night, the thick mental fog shuts down completely over my brain and anything worth doing seems to require a herculean level of effort, mental acuity and creative energy.

After I wrote that, I may have cried a little. I'm pretty sure I did. I didn't have a reason to explain my lethargy and fatigue. I cried again when a new friend here in VA referred to me as her "dear introverted friend" Y'all. I am not an introvert. I was just exhausted. Drained. I started to wonder if it was possible in one's late 30s to suddenly change personalities completely? I felt like maybe I had just used up all but the dregs of my personality-- maybe this is what the dreaded Middle Age was like?

But.

This spring I have felt a return of that old creative energy. I'm no longer vegging on the couch in the evenings (last night J and I went running at 9:30). I'm back in the church choir. I added some "fun stuff" to our history lessons (!!). I started a book club. I painted the hallway and the living room, made some serious headway with all my yard projects, and all that happened in the midst of one of the most stressful (emotionally and physically) seasons of our lives due to some massive upheaval in the lives of some people very dear to us (this is the part that is someone else's story which details I am not at liberty to share). I feel like I've come alive again, the old me is back.

As I look back over that post and remember where I was at that time, I am convinced that while about half of that was just the upheaval of the move, the other half was a further development in my continual saga of hormone dysfunction. If you've never heard of Adrenal Fatigue, google it. Seriously. If you are a mom, or a woman who's life is similarly stressful and demanding, you need to know about this and you need to know how to care for yourself in order to avoid or treat it.

Those of you who follow me on FB know that I found relief in a concoction of herbs and supplements from Plexus Worldwide-- the famous Pink Drink. I will explain in more detail what I'm doing (and the ingredients) in my next post. But suffice it to say for now that I traded that tired, uninspired, "middle-aged" me in for a new, tougher, stronger, healthier, more inspired me; plus I gained a new vision, a new business and a new sense of calling in my life, to boot! I am so thankful that the Lord put this into my life with such perfect timing!


Monday, February 6, 2017

The changing face of Mothercare.

I have always been a vocal advocate of the practice of self-care. Frequently on this blog, in my Facebook feed, and any chance I get in person, I exhort my fellow-moms to set aside time to refresh themselves, so that they can return with full cups to the daily duty of pouring themselves out for their spouses, children and whomever else depends on them for daily needs. I try to model it.  I host Girl's Nights, book clubs, and parties. I swoop down and carry off overly-pregnant girlfriends for dates at the spa. I drop by with care packages for new moms. I block out Friday nights and Sunday afternoons several times a month to go out with J, or spend time window shopping. I learned early in my mothering (thanks to some excellent books and mentors) to grab tightly onto every quick moment to suck in a few deep breaths of relief and freedom whenever opportunity presented itself.

Now I find myself inexorably leaving that fast-paced, relentless, surf-pounding stage of motherhood behind. My youngest is six. He's a rotten sleeper, so I do still have plenty of those nights that leave me a little blurry around the edges the next day, but generally speaking, I'm out of the trenches. So what is this changing face of Mothercare for me now? I no longer have the same need to peel the velcro-fingers off my unshaven legs and dash out the door for a coffee date, real quick, before I suffocate from All The Touching. I actually have the time and luxury to shower, coiff, and make-up before I leave my relatively independent boys in the capable hands of their extremely independent older sister and MOSEY out the door to a coffee date. 

So do I still need self-care? Do I still have an excuse for that coffee date?

I say yes. With a caveat. Coming out of the trenches, I find myself still on the front lines of mothering (not to put too fine a point on a metaphor). I am finding a need to be more deliberate in my choices, more mindful and intentional. I'm out of the sprint and into the marathon. I need to have a little more care to choose my activities and find things that don't just return me to humanity, but actually nurture me as a MENTOR and a MOTHER. I am sensing a need not just for survival, but for growth. I am now at the stage of not just keeping these three future-humans alive and relatively safe without completely losing my sense of self in the process, but actually leading them forward in their faith, knowledge and purpose toward that ever-elusive goal of Mature Adult. It is a sobering task. A burden which requires the daily training of the committed athlete, if I am to carry it well.

In addition, I have a daughter who needs to share some of my moments of leisure. She no longer requires my attention for her basic survival, so I have to reach out deliberately in the quiet moments of my rest and draw her into them with me in order to connect with her on a level deeper than barked commands, or bedtime stories and snuggles. The reality of parenting a young women peels away yet another layer in the self-sacrifice required of a mother. 

I find this difficult. 

I am an excellent manager. I tend to hold my children a little at arms length and organize them into a (mostly) well-functioning machine. The hoop-and-stick routine that works well with young children who require really only love and correction (and food), falls short of the ever-more-and-more complicated emotional needs of an almost-woman. And I occasionally find myself in selfishness grasping tightly hold of the old way of relating-- mother to child, protecting my Self by occasional escape-- and resisting the woman-to-woman, shared-Self relationship that I'm being drawn into. 

So I find myself sometimes compelled to trade in my movie nights and coffee dates with friends for window shopping with my daughter, and planning special weekends for her and her girlfriends. I still do set aside time for myself, but I feel the need to devote some of that time to study, work, and prepare; not just breathe and enjoy. In this next stage of parenting, I find myself with more free time and less of it to spend without consideration. My increasingly independent children require of me the kind of self-sacrifice that I find most difficult-- not just physical, but relational self-sacrifice. And my self-care is becoming more deliberate, more intentional... perhaps less fun...

But in the long run, I trust, deeper and more rewarding.












Tuesday, January 3, 2017

#wordoftheyear

I have always loved, but never before participated in the tradition of choosing a Word for the Year as part of a New Year's resolution. It seems a fitting addition to the mental list of goals I make every year-- something to ground, or shape my plans for my year. Something to remind me of what I aspire to, or have learned in the past year and wish to apply to my coming year. So this year, I decided to participate.

After a lovely discussion on Facebook, much consideration and a serendipitous devotional reading last night, I've chosen. My word for 2017 is 

Steadfast.

Lamentations 3:22-24

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

These words come in the midst of a chapter describing great turmoil and trial, the like of which I've never experienced, and the attitude described here is one I covet for myself--turning heavenward in the midst of difficult circumstances and remembering and praising the faithfulness of God.

I choose this word first of all because I want to be reminded of this aspect of the character of God as I walk through my year. He is an inexhaustible fountain of mercy, provision, and loving care. I want to remember daily in 2017 the expression of His steadfastness throughout my life. I want to meditate on my Ebeneezers-- those piles of stones in my life marking out His particular attentions.

I also choose it because it is a character trait that I want to assimilate. Steadfastness. Faithfulness. This is the first concept I pondered that seemed relevant to every part of my life-- personal, mothering, wife-ing (is that a word?), homeschooling, business. 

"A long obedience in the same direction."


stead·fast
ˈstedˌfast/
adjective
  1. resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.

    "steadfast loyalty"


My husband beautifully exemplifies this trait. It is something I have noticed and admired in him since we first met in high school. His steady, thoughtful way of approaching life has provided our family with security and peace in the midst of some pretty intense moments over the years and I want to emulate that part of his character. His loyalty, too, is something that has protected our marriage relationship and served him well in his professional life. Those who have counted him among their friends know that he is a rare friend indeed. I want to be like that.

The serendipitous devotional reading was from "Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work" -- a book that I highly recommend any time I get a chance to recommend a book. Another of Kathleen Norris' books, "Acedia and Me" was a life-changing read for me in 2011, after Jamie was born and I was stranded in a new city with a newborn and two other small children, missing my friends and feeling as though I had forgotten who I was outside of Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. I highly recommend that one, too. It was Norris who sent me to that passage in Lamentations and she goes on to speak of the application of steadfastness in our daily tasks:


Laundry, liturgy and women's work all serve to ground us in the world and they need not grind us down. Our daily tasks, whether we perceive them as drudgery or essential, life-supporting work, do not define who we are as women or as human beings, But they have a considerable spiritual import, and their significance for Christian theology, the way they come together in the fabric of faith, is not often appreciated. But it is daily tasks, daily acts of love and worship that serve to remind us that religion is not strictly an intellectual pursuit, and these days it is easy to lose sight of that as, like our society itself, churches are becoming more politicized and polarized. Christian faith is a way of life, not an impregnable fortress made up of ideas; not a philosophy, not a grocery list of beliefs. (emphasis mine)

I want my daily tasks to be acts of love and worship; work, teaching, mothering, wife-ing (I'm just going with it-- it's probably a word), being who I am in Christ-- everything I do...


 ...in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17


Here's to a New Year in the Faith! 






Sunday, December 4, 2016

Courage and Valor

We had a guest speaker of sorts this morning in our Sunday School class. She brought to light, almost as a side note, the story of God's call to Gideon. Gideon is threshing wheat in hiding from the Mideonite oppressors and the angel of the Lord appears to him and says, "The Lord is with you, mighty man of valor!" The incongruity of his situation and emotion with God's greeting to him has stuck with me all day...

My sister posted a confessional about her weekly Sunday night dread of the return to the homeschooling routine of Monday morning on Facebook tonight and I responded with one of my favorite quotes, "Courage, dear heart" It's Aslan's voice, speaking to Lucy in the depths of dread darkness. Those words echo frequently in my heart when things seem dark and confusing...

Mothers, wives, sisters... If you are facing this week with a feeling of dread, inadequacy, fear, or heartache; if life beyond the relative comfort of the weekend feels just a little beyond your ability to manage or direct, remember that He bids you be of good courage. If you are hiding in a wine press, frantically trying to thresh out a little wheat before the marauding Mideonites come to devastate and destroy, remember that when He looks at you, because of Christ, He names you a Mighty Woman of Valor.

You are a Mighty Woman of Valor, dear heart.

Also, remember the marauding Mideonites are cute some of the time.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Storytellers

I hosted a party tonight for a friend who's recently started marketing for KEEP Collective-- a jewelry line from Stella and Dot. The mission of the line is to help women tell their stories through symbolic charms and symbols that you can personalize. When I first heard my friend talk about this concept, I didn't really get it. I mean, the brand is basically a grown-up version of the charm bracelet. The pieces are cute, but... Lots of jewelry is cute. But during the course of the party, I got it. And, as I am wont, I found a deeper symbolism in what they're trying to do...

My friend gathered us all together and started the introductions. She told us about her life and her twin daughters, she showed us her necklace and told us the significance of it. Then she had each person tell how they met me (I was the common denominator in a group of women who mostly, but not all, knew each other) and give three words that described me for them and then three words that they felt symbolized themselves, or this particular stage in their lives.

At first it was awkward. I do not like being the center of attention unless I am teaching, or telling a funny story, performing-- in control of the script, so to speak. But as each friend, most of them new, in this new place, in this new part of my life; as each friend shared their experience of meeting me and then affirmed verbally to me, in my hearing, that they saw this thing in me, that they saw this or that part of me, that they knew something about me, I felt a spreading warmth and confidence that I did not realize I had been missing in this new place...  And I gradually began to see another piece of this truth about women needing women that has been a part of God's teaching in my life ever since I can remember.... We need this from each other. We need to tell, not just our own stories, but each other's. We need to deliberately affirm for each other who we are, what we do, what we think and believe, what we are doing and why. We need to remind each other often of who we are, and why. 

Women, in the daily grind of housework, office work, mothering, infertility, loss, moving, never going anywhere, having no place to go, laundry, cooking, yard work; whatever it is that drains you of identity and makes you forget who you are, and why... we need to have someone who will look into our eyes and say, "I see you. I know who you are. Remember this? This is who you are, this is why." So much of what we do goes unnoticed, unseen. A large part of our daily activity is cyclical, unmade as quickly as it is made (cooking, cleaning, laundry). I believe we crave, sometimes unconsciously. a witness that we exist outside of those things: that there is something continuous, something linear in us that is essentially Us. We sisters ought to be that witness to each other.

I ended the night with the deep urge to text all my friends and tell them; I see you. I know you. You are a reader, teacher, artist. You are a musician, teacher, creator of beauty. You are strong, vibrant, loyal. You are warm, caring, welcoming. You are driven, articulate, creative. You are gentle, loving, humble. You are curious, intelligent, caring. I see you. I see each of you. I name you. Thank you for being in my life.