Confessions of A Car Hoarder

A couple of days ago I was at home with my two little boys. My alarm clock went off on my phone informing me it was time to get in my car and go pick up the kids from school. Well shoot. The baby was still asleep in his crib and I hated waking him up from his nap. I knew that he was barefoot and it was cold outside and I didn’t have time to mess with shoes, so I grabbed a pair of socks out of his dresser and then woke him up and quickly put his socks on him and ran out to the car with him and his brother. I had the heater going full blast and eventually it was downright hot. I noticed in my rear view mirror that Noah was pulling his socks off and dropping them on the floor. I instantly thought : Mental Note, we now have a pair of socks for Noah in the car…This could be added to other mental notes like when David took off his shoes: Mental Note, we now have a pair of shoes for David in the car, or when I was cleaning up trash off the floor, found some clean diapers and stuffed them in a little cubby: Mental note, we now have some clean diapers in the car…

It occurred to me that I might have a problem. I believe I am a car hoarder.

hoard

/hôrd/

noun

  1. 1.
  2. a stock or store of money or valued objects, typically one that is secret or carefully guarded.

Dictionary.com

I hoard objects in my car so that I will always be prepared for any emergency. Why, you may ask.. Well, lets see. There was the time that I loaded up about 7 kids into the car to go grocery shopping, got to the grocery store, started unloading the kids and then found out that one of my boys had somehow “forgot” to put on shoes. BUT! I was prepared! Another child had left a pair of flipflops in the car and so I was able to take those abandoned shoes and give them to the shoe-less child instead of having to load everyone up again and go home to retrieve shoes. Or, the time, recently, when I took two little boys to a doctor’s appointment, went to unbuckle the four year old and found out he had wet his pants and not told me about it. BUT! I was prepared! I found not only a clean pair of jeans on the floor of the car, but also a clean pair of underwear! Or there was the time that we were waiting in the car line and the baby was fussy and hungry and I had forgotten to bring a snack, BUT! I was prepared! There was an apple sitting on the dash that had been left from a previous day and a previous snack time.

My husband does not understand or sympathize with my car-hoarding tendencies. When I open my van doors, I see Preparedness. When he opens my van doors he sees MESS. Allcaps. Every once in a while I will bend to his disapproval and send my kids out to clean the car, or let one of my boys earn some pocket money and do it by themselves. Inevitably, the day after the car is cleaned out I run into an emergency. Ack! I forgot the diaper bag and the baby has a poopy diaper. I HAD DIAPERS AND WIPES RIGHT HERE ON THE FLOOR!!! WHY DID THE CAR HAVE TO GET CLEANED OUT!!

This is why I rarely clean out my car.

My husband would be quick to point out that I could keep a stash of supplies in the car in a nice neat box in the trunk and thus eliminate the need to be stepping on shoes and socks and diapers that now litter the floor of the car. I would be equally quick to point out that my brain doesn’t work that way, I am neither organized or neat. The only reason my car hoarding works is because it happens naturally, organically. Like fruit falling from the trees to the forest floor.

Of course, I love my husband and so I try to hide my hoarding from him or at least make it not so obvious so that it is not as irritating to him. He only drives in the van on Sundays. If I happen to drive on Saturdays, you will find me grabbing a grocery bag and stuffing it full of trash, grabbing a handful of cups and random water bottles, tossing things back behind the front seat so that it’s not as noticeable from the driver’s seat. See. That is love. Or maybe just affection? Or maybe just trying to avoid arguments with the least amount of work? Occasionally we use our van to drive around other people besides our family members. Then I will clean out the car myself, vacuum everything, wipe down sticky surfaces…I figure this happens often enough to keep my car from completely turning into a dump.

So, now you know. Esther is prepared for all occasions. As long as she is driving her van.

Fat Fridays: Week 3 Emotional Eating

I was trying to think about the reasons why I eat. If I was just eating because I was hungry, I don’t think I would have weight issues. From what I can tell, your body naturally regulates how much food you need and when you need it with this thing called hunger and fullness. It’s when we start eating for reasons other than hunger, and when we keep eating even when we’re full..that’s when we run into problems.

So, top of the list. Emotional Eating. I looked up the definition and it says, basically, overeating to relieve negative emotions. For some reason, when I am angry, depressed, angry, bored with life, angry, or maybe just angry, I eat. Eating gives you this short rush of nice feelings and usually you can continue on and pretend like those negative emotions never happened. Until, of course, they pop back up again. But then you just eat again and put it off again and on and on it goes.

I seem to have an intense dislike for feeling negative emotions. I don’t want to feel angry. I don’t want to feel sad. I don’t want to feel melancholy. I just want everything to be pleasant. I don’t just use food to avoid these feelings. I use entertainment. Read a book and forget about it. Check Facebook and calm down. Scroll through useless articles on the internet and zone out.

So here’s the question. Why? Why am I so opposed to feeling negative emotions? Is it because I am a peaceful person and things like Anger feel wrong? Or maybe I have just always tried to fill the role of the “good girl” and feeling bad doesn’t fit that image? Or maybe, our society does not give healthy examples of people dealing with strong emotions and so I have no role models?

There is a verse in the Bible, Ephesians 4:26-27 that says,

“In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

I have always liked the fact that the verse seems to assume that you are going to get angry. Getting angry is part of being alive. It’s what you do with that anger that can get you in trouble.

My anger tends to erupt when people have inconvenienced me. Which just shows how deep my sin nature and selfishness is. I struggle with borderline road rage. I’m not out of control, I just sit there and mutter about the other drivers. I am aware that this is a problem and I have started repeating to myself when I drive, “It’s not all about you…It’s not all about you..” Because really, road rage is the presumption that all the other vehicles in the road should do everything possible to make sure that YOUR driving experience is smooth and trouble free. When someone is going  too slow when I’m in a hurry, I feel inconvenienced, and my little selfish self speaks up and says, HEY! How dare you! Don’t you know I’m in a hurry! Stop driving like that, it’s inconveniencing me! (Of course, not so eloquently put, more like me muttering under my breath about idiots and people who don’t know how to drive.)

Of course, the way I get inconvenienced the most is by my children. Those lovely, beautiful human beings my husband and I helped create. They have this amazing way of spilling cups of juice on my freshly mopped floor, or wiping snotty noses on my clean shirt, or accidentally breaking my favorite mug, or wanting me to intervene in an argument right when I’m trying to cook supper…They are masters at inconveniencing me. Unfortunately, my selfish side tends to react and I get angry. And I really don’t want to be angry at my kids. When I first had children in my early twenties and had two toddlers on my hands, I indulged in some pretty impressive temper tantrums when the kids wouldn’t cooperate.  The most dramatic was when my little ones wouldn’t help clean up their toys and I stood at the doorway and threw their toys into the yard. Hopefully, I’ve matured a lot since then. I’ve learned to walk away when I’m angry and go cool down. I’ve learned a bit better how to hold my tongue and not say things I’ll regret later, and most important, when those tactics fail, I’ve learned better how to go and apologize to my children when I mess up. Good things. Bad thing though is that somewhere along the way I figured out that when I’m really upset, eating something helps you calm down faster. In fact, eating something can help you calm down without having to do any thinking or analyzing about Why you got angry, and What can you do to change things so you don’t get angry again over the same thing?

That’s the problem. Eating something makes you feel better for a short amount of time, but it never gets to the root. It never forces you confront your own sin nature, beg God for forgiveness, seek reconciliation, make changes so that you can handle these things better. All it does it covers up the emotion for a while so you can postpone feeling it.

I think I am scared about feeling strong emotions. Like I might not be able to handle it. Like it’s a giant wave that’s going to knock me down and I might never resurface. I don’t know why I’m afraid. I’ve got Jesus. He said he was never going to leave me or forsake me. He said his grace was sufficient for me. He’s not going to leave me alone with these uncomfortable emotions. I have a feeling that if I actually started confronting the anger and trying to dig down to the roots of it, I have a feeling that it would lessen, ease up, that I would be a healthier person.

So this is my challenge for this week: to stop trying to cover up the emotions with food. Those emotions are there for a reason. I need to let myself feel them. Take them to God in prayer, ask for wisdom to understand where these emotions are coming from and what to do with them. That’s the plan. May God give me the courage to do it.

Love Tinted Glasses

This evening I felt myself succumbing to a really grumpy mood. I rehashed my day and thought about how bad it had been. Woke up way before the alarm went off, couldn’t go back to sleep. First day of kids going back to school meant an early morning and a bit of craziness getting everyone out the door. Had to take the two year old to a well-child checkup appointment at 9 am. Had to take the two little ones to Walmart for a big shopping. Got home at lunch and had a million things to do, but the baby fell asleep on my lap and clung to me any time I tried to move him so I ended up sitting in a chair with him for two hours. When he finally woke up I only had 45 minutes before I had to get back in the car to pick everyone up from school. Had to take my seven year old to physical therapy after I got the kids home from school. Didn’t get home till it was time to make supper. House was a mess. Kids were making a lot of noise. Aside from feeding people, I hadn’t got any housework done. I was stepping over toys on the floor, kicking dirty clothes out of the way, grabbing the baby as he tried to reach up on the counters and pull everything down. The younger kids all had their skates on and were crashing around the house, running into walls and furniture as they wobbled around. Chaos. I don’t like chaos.

As I sat at the supper table, I suddenly had a perspective shift. All the kids were sitting around the table talking to each other, talking with me and my husband. Everyone was laughing and joking with each other. My kids were fighting over who got to talk to me first about their day. The older kids were teasing the little ones. After the meal everyone gathered in the living room. It was still chaotic, kids running around in circles chasing each other. Every once in a while a child would hand me a book to read out loud. My oldest boy was playing the piano. My husband was working at the fireplace, trying to get our new wood burning stove installed. Still Chaos.

But good chaos. Family hanging out together. People enjoying each other’s company. Kids basking in being at home, being a part of a family, being loved. Warmth, security.

Two ways to look at the day. A failure: house didn’t get cleaned; dishes didn’t get washed; laundry didn’t get done. Or, a complete success. Children were hugged and cuddled; kids were listened to; laughter was shared. It was actually a good day.

Perhaps my perspective shift was simply getting a heavenly glimpse of my life. Seeing things through love-tinted glasses. And that is my New Year’s Resolution, that I would start slapping those glasses on my face every day and start judging my success on how well I loved that day, not how many chores I checked off my list. Love God, love people. It’s going to be a good year. 

Elliptical Machines and the Kindle App

About two years ago our family got a membership at the YMCA. It was during a time when I was really struggling with depression. The gym became a life-saver for me. It was only a five minute drive away. I would tell my older kids they were babysitting, drive down to the gym, get on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes then quickly come back home, usually only being gone for 45 minutes. I felt better from the exercise and from having a short break from the house. I went as much as six times a week, usually no less than four.

Well, after we decided to stop homeschooling and my kids started going to public school, I no longer had a “big kid” to babysit, which meant I had to load up my little ones (there were three at home at the time) and take them to the gym with me and leave them at the daycare room. My trips to the gym now became long, drawn-out hassles that involved dressing little children, finding missing shoes, loading kids in and out of car seats, and then abandoning screaming children to a daycare worker. Just so I could get a 30 minutes workout. My trips to the gym quickly decreased. We were also still getting accustomed to everyone being gone all day at school and by the time the kids got home and I had a babysitter available again, I did not want to leave them to go do my own thing. I started only going on weekends. This past summer I finally pointed out to my husband that we simply were not using the gym to its full potential anymore and should probably cancel our membership. He asked me when I was going to exercise and I said something like, I’ll take a walk, or get a video workout or something.

So, around the time of my birthday, this fall, my husband informed me that he was going to buy me an elliptical machine with his bonus he had received. WOW! I was surprised, excited, and a little nervous. Elliptical machines have been my go-to because they have been the only form of exercise that has worked consistently with my various back problems. Having my very own at home would be a dream come true. Having my husband fork out a chunk of money so that I can exercise at home felt a little more dangerous. Especially when he calculated the cost of the machine (we found one on sale!) versus the cost of a gym membership and said I would need to exercise diligently for two years before having a machine at home could be considered cheaper than the gym. Yikes. To say I felt a bit of pressure to use my new machine would be putting it lightly.  

I am proud to say that I have, until Christmas time, been very faithful with using my machine. Christmas really threw me off, but I started back yesterday and I feel a renewed desire to keep exercising. Since I am not a particularly athletic or disciplined person, you may be surprised at this. So, here’s my little secret. I read when I exercise. I have a kindle app on my phone and I have a book at the ready, put it on the little shelf and just incorporate finger swipes to turn the page as part of my exercise routine. This is proof that if I am reading I can endure almost anything. The nice part about reading is if you get to a particularly intense part of the story, you automatically speed up and get an even better workout! 🙂 I guess this probably points to the fact that I am a bookworm, have been since second grade, and probably will be all my life. I average 4 books a week. Sometimes more. Rarely less. The library and I are good friends. All this to say, it is very exciting to find out I can make exercise (which can be boring!) into a time when I can read a book without any guilt. Long live elliptical machines, and long live the kindle app!

(Ok, I’m aware that people often watch TV or listen to podcasts while working out. I have found that I really don’t enjoy TV much, it doesn’t hold my attention, and I am not an auditory kind of person, so listening to someone speak into my ears through headphones is kind of stressful for me.) (Yes. I’m weird.)(Maybe there are more weird people out there like me though, so I’m sharing this amazing discovery with them!) (Ok, I also understand this is not exercise-guru type advice, I know, I need to do some other types of exercise as well, but, hey, something is better than nothing!)(I love parenthesis, they are so handy!) (And fun.) (I might just possibly over-use them.) (Maybe.) (Perhaps I should take a poll.)

Fat Fridays: Week 2 The Number of Shame

How much do you weigh? The answer of course is, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! As I thought about writing this weightloss blog, I wondered whether I should disclose where I am starting from. How much do I weigh. After much mental agony I decided that the answer is NO. That is just way too vulnerable, way too out there, way too painful. And here’s the question of the day. Why? Why is it so painful to share our weight? What is it about that horrible number that stirs up so many emotions?

Think about it. We have this system of weights that we invented to give a numerical value to how heavy an object is. It’s scientific. It’s helpful. It helps keeps things fair and equal and even. When we buy food we do it by weight. That way, I know that every time I give you a certain amount of money, you will give me the exact same amount of food every time. 1 gallon of milk. 2 pounds of flour. 4 pounds of apples.

I’m not sure why we started weighing people. Haven’t looked up the history of it. I’m going to presume it has to do with medical science attaching value to certain weights, coming up with a system that says if you are this tall and weigh this much then you are healthy. But, if you are this tall and weigh this much then you are not healthy. Those lovely BMI charts. I am not saying that medical science is incorrect. I’ve read all the articles. I fully understand that the more extra weight I carry around, the more likely I am to develop a whole host of unwanted diseases and syndromes. But why does that number, my weight, evoke so much shame?

When I think about the giant array of heights and body types for women, the idea that there is a certain number that we all want to be is ridiculous. It’s a person-by-person situation. My ideal weight will look nothing like your ideal weight. So, why do we hold that number so close to our chest. No one needs to know how much I weigh!

I think for me that number has come to represent just how far away from perfect I am. Ok, forget perfect. Let’s just say normal. If I was a normal, self-disciplined, healthy individual, I would weigh this much. And I don’t. And what does that say about me? It says I’m a slob. I’m a glutton. I’m without discipline. I’m gross. I’m unworthy. I’m unlovable. And I have a numerical value that tells me exactly how far off the mark I am. And so it becomes a number of shame. And there’s no way I’m going to share my shame with you and so…It’s NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS how much I weigh.

Here’s the problem with shame. It’s not a very good motivator. I have tried to use shame as a self-motivator to lose weight. “Look at you! You’re disgusting! You don’t deserve to eat anything but vegetables and water for the next year. You look horrible. You have do something to fix this mess you’ve made.” And so I go on a diet. And I’m angry. Angry at myself for getting  into this horrible state. Angry that I now have to deny myself all the foods that I like. Angry that other people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and don’t have to deal with weight problems. Angry that I am such a failure at life. Eventually a temptation arises that is too big to overcome, I cave, the diet crashes, and I slowly go back to my relaxed way of eating which is to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, without giving it much thought. So yes, shame is a horrible motivator.

I have heard people say that you need to love yourself. That is the way to overcome weight issues. If you love yourself then you will want to take care of yourself, take care of your health. You will care about the fact that being overweight is actually causing you to be more sick, less energetic, less confident. You will care so much about yourself that you will willingly take on the lifestyle changes and make the sacrifices necessary to lose weight. That sounds good. I like it. It fits with the theme I have been coming back to over and over again. Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself. It seems that in order to love our neighbor as ourselves, we would need to love ourselves, right? So, here’s my question. How do you get to that place where you love yourself?

This number, how much I weigh, I’ve been carrying that around for my entire adult life. I left high school trim and fit, went to college and immediately gained 15 pounds. That crept up to 20 pounds before I got married. This number has been staring at me from the scale for 20 plus years now, speaking it’s message of shame. The higher it goes the lower my head hangs. It’s really hard to love myself when this number is loudly proclaiming how unworthy I am.

When I sat down to write this I had no idea where I was going to go with this. Apparently God has some ideas. I guess it’s going to have to come back to my identity in Christ. The world with all it’s systems of measuring, tells me very clearly that I don’t measure up. Not skinny enough, not rich enough, not smart enough, not connected enough. The world’s message is I AM NOT ENOUGH. Right now I am feeling that so strongly. I’m not a good enough wife. I’m not a good enough mother. I’m not a good enough friend. I’m not a good enough anything. I don’t measure up. How can I, miserable failure that I am, ever hope to change my ways and lose weight? I have tried so many times and I have always failed. I’m just don’t have what it takes. So, what does God say about me?

Here’s a list I found:

whoiaminchrist_single_printedsheet_halfsheet_v1_00-600p

I can add a couple more. I am loved by my husband. I am loved by my children. I am loved by my family. Maybe this person, the one that God says I am, can love herself enough to willingly take on the lifestyle changes, willingly make the sacrifices necessary to be healthy again. We’ll see.

Enemies

It’s the New Years and I feel like I should be writing thankful glimpses back at the past year or hopeful goals and plans for the upcoming year. Honestly, right now I’m struggling with the never-ending monster of depression that still hasn’t got the memo that I am completely over it and have moved on. It continues to linger and pop up right when I don’t need it. So, I am not ready to write about endings and beginnings. Maybe later.

Instead I’m going to tell you about this memory that popped up out of nowhere today. I suddenly remembered when I was in high school in Bethel, Alaska, at Bethel Regional High School. I was nominally a part of the band, (I didn’t actually play in the band, but I accompanied their various ensembles and solo pieces on the piano). Some of the ensembles I was accompanying had managed to qualify for the state-level band competition and so a group of us had flown to Anchorage to take part in the competition. We were staying at a hotel where the room doors opened onto an outside walkway. For some reason we had our room door open, and for some reason I had left my wallet on a table close to the door. Yes. My wallet got stolen. Normally for my teen self that wouldn’t have been too big a deal since I rarely had any money, but this time I actually had several hundred dollars with me. Part of our trip included a visit to the mall in the big city and I had been planning on buying some much needed new clothing. Major devastation, guilt, anger etc… I remembered this occasion and then realized, Oh, I haven’t prayed for that thief in a long time…

You see, on another occasion, several years later, when I was 20, I had a similar thing happen and it changed my perspective greatly on people and crime and how to think when bad things happen. I had been out by myself on some back roads in San Bernadino in Chile. I had gone out running and had my discman with me. Suddenly a scrawny teen pulled up next to me on his bike, pulled out a gun, pointed it at me and gestured for me to give him my discman. I was in shock and didn’t know what else to do except hand it to him. He road off and I ran home, completely shaken. As the shock wore off, I started to get angry, I wanted revenge. And suddenly, God downloaded to me what the best revenge I could get was…he told me very clearly, Pray for him. Pray for this teen. And it all clicked.

There is a bible verse, Ephesians 6:12 which says,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

My enemy was not this kid, my enemy was the devil. If I wanted to get revenge against my true enemy, what better way than to pray that this kid be saved, that his ownership transfer from the devil to God. What better way to get revenge than to take something that the devil meant as a curse for me and instead turn it into a blessing? What if, one day, I got to heaven and this kid walked up to me and said, you know, part of why I’m here is because you prayed for me? I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than that. And so I started praying for him. It’s been 20 years since the incident, and I still occasionally remember him and send off some more prayers. As other incidents happened, I realized I could take the same approach and so I added more people to this prayer list. I remembered the theft from high school and added that unknown person. There are the two guys that attempted to mug my husband when we first moved into this neighborhood. The unknown persons that broke into our shed and stole my husbands’ tools…

Here’s the thought process. What if any time the devil tries to “curse” me I instead turn it into a concentrated prayer and intercession for the person who was used to harm me? Jesus said to pray for your enemies. Who are our enemies? Well, nowadays that term is kind of ambiguous. People who have hurt us? Communists? People of a different religion? Terrorists? How about, when we watch the news and we feel ourselves emotionally reacting to some criminal we just learned about? We feel intense anger towards that person…Maybe that person just made it onto your enemy list. Those are the people that Jesus is telling you to pray for. Because, remember, these people who are trapped in sin and do horrible things, they are lost, captives to death and sin. They can’t free themselves of these sin natures, only Jesus can. And so we pray for them, pray that they would, like us, be set free, pledge their allegiance to a different master, experience that amazing grace that we walk in every day. They are our enemies, but Jesus wants them to be our brothers.

I will be honest. I don’t think I have any “real” enemies. I haven’t been subject to persecution; no one has killed one of my family members; I don’t walk around in fear of attack. I hope and pray that I will never be in those situations, knowing full well that for millions of people that is their reality. But perhaps I can cultivate the habit of praying for those who make me angry, who harm me in smaller ways, who go completely against my moral code. And perhaps if that habit is so well-ingrained in me, it will be easier if I do ever face worse circumstances, great heartbreak inflicted by another human being. Perhaps it will be easier to remember that my true enemy is the devil, and I’ll be able to be obedient to Jesus’ calling: Pray for your Enemies.