Living the Pinterest-Worthy Life

  • breadpic

So, I almost posted this picture on Facebook this morning. “Fresh bread for breakfast!” and some other junk about what a great idea I had last night to make dough and let it rise in the night, and then get up early and finish making delicious bread.. Yay me… etc etc.

I tried to post it on Facebook, but then I got a fail notice and a message saying that perhaps my Facebook was being impersonated and maybe I should exit this site. Then my phone messed up completely and I had to shut the whole thing down and restart it (apparently the solution to all things technological). Then while I was trying to get my phone restarted, my child asked when we were headed off to their doctors appointment? And I suddenly realized that maybe I should check that appointment time again, maybe I had remembered the wrong time. So my phone finally comes on and I check my calendar again, and yep, I had the time wrong and we actually only had 20 minutes to get to the appointment. I start yelling, quick, put your shoes on, I’m going to go grab my shoes.. I run into the kitchen on the way to my bedroom and see that some impatient child has torn a hunk off the top of my loaf of bread.. AAAACKK!!!! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!!!! The guilty party looks at me and says, Can I have a piece now?? Now I’m mad that someone destroyed my beautiful loaves of bread. I run over to the drawer, grab a knife and start hacking the loaf into slices..But wait. This bread isn’t cooked all the way through! How did that happen??? I checked the bread before I took it out!! AAAAARRRGHH! I grab the bread, throw it back into the oven, minus the loaf pans, randomly turn the oven onto a temperature, set the timer…20 minutes? Will that be long enough? Who knows. I’ve got to leave and it’s going to be my kids turning off this oven while I’m gone. I inform the older child, who will be in charge, that they must turn off the oven when the timer goes off and then I run for my bedroom to grab socks and shoes. Child and I run to the van and I yank open my door, try to put my foot up on the step and instead my foot comes in contact with an apple (Why is there an apple on the step????). The apple goes flying into the yard. I retreat and pick it up, toss it back into the car and try to pull myself gracefully into my seat. I miss somehow and thud into the steering wheel. By this time I don’t care that I’m swearing and being a bad example to my child. We finally get on the road.

As I calm down a bit and try to drive carefully to the the doctor’s office, I think about the picture that I had tried to post earlier. What a joke. I’m not sure why, but occasionally I just give in to temptation and I take these glossy pictures of my life that really have no basis in reality. In order to take this picture I had to move all the dirty dishes on the table off to one side so they wouldn’t show up. Then I had to crop the top of the picture so you couldn’t see the pile of junk I have stacked against my kitchen wall. There’s a pretty little teapot which gives the impression that I’m about to sit down to a nice hot cup of tea. Well, that would be nice except that this teapot was used yesterday by my daughter and it never got washed out or put away. It’s just sitting on my table.

Did I also mention that even though I left the dough to rise all night, it didn’t rise very well because our heaters are not working. And I was supposed to keep my wood burning stove going all night, but was too tired to do a good job of it. I pulled myself out of bed around 3:30 am, stumbled into the living room saw that I only had a couple embers left, threw some logs in and hoped for the best. The best didn’t happen. The logs didn’t catch on fire. Which means at 6:30 this morning when I got up, the house was freezing. And let me tell you. I am amazed that house fires ever happen. Especially when I diligently stack paper, and lint and cardboard and wood in a nice neat pile in a nice wood stove, light several matches to it and then they refuse to catch on fire. Who knew that paper was so Not Inflammable.

Here’s the thing. When I took that picture, for that brief moment in time, it was true. I had made bread. It looked beautiful. My teapot looked beautiful. I was feeling peaceful. Life felt calm and pretty…And then all hell broke loose.

It’s the same in life. I was telling someone how I was doing so much better from my depression. Things that had helped me. And everything I said was true. And then that same day turned out to be a horrible day where I was fighting to stay engaged. Fighting to not listen to the voice that gives me detailed lists on how I am failing at everything. Fighting to not be discouraged. That too is true. The hard part is accepting that my life is never going to be picture perfect all the time. I will certainly have moments that are Pinterest-Worthy, and it’s ok to celebrate those moments. But I’m also going to have a lot of moments where I’m throwing bread back into an oven and tripping over apples. And it’s ok to talk about those moments too. It’s what makes us real.

So, if you ever see a beautiful picture on my Facebook pointing out some amazing feat of baking or decorating or whatever that I’ve accomplished. Just keep in mind that I probably had to hide some dirty dishes and maybe kick some trash out of the way so I could take that pic. I’m not brave enough to post pictures of my mess, but maybe I should. Just to keep it real.

It’s Just All About Relationships

A couple years ago when the last Die Hard movie came out, my husband and I went to the theater to see it. Not because I particularly wanted to watch it, but because my husband is a full-blown Die Hard fan and I went to keep him company. So we watched this big, long, action-packed movie that involved Bruce Willis helping his son. So, after watching about two hours of shooting and dodging and fighting and racing cars and explosions and everything else you would expect in a Die Hard movie, we walked out. I can’t remember which one of us said it for sure, but I think it was my husband, he says, “So, basically, it was just a movie about relationships.” Yeah. That about sums it up. After you skim out all the explosions, it’s just about a father and son.

“It’s just all about relationships.” This has become our catch-phrase for any movie we watch, whether it be a chick-flick or race-car stealing movie, “It’s just all about relationships.” Because it’s true, even the lamest movie plots, they still throw in some kind of relationship to somehow give the movie some worth or meaning.

So, Friday night my college-going daughter, who happens to be working backstage at the Clarence Brown Theater, arranged for me and my husband and my parents to get tickets to see “King Charles III”, a play, at the Clarence Brown Theater. It was very well done. Well-acted. Great sets. Intellectually stimulating. The kind of plot where there is no definable bad and good guy, instead, a bunch of decent people making hard decisions and you can understand their motivation, but at the same time see how their decisions are creating big problems. If you enjoy theater and thinking about issues, I highly recommend it.

We walked out of the theater, each of us giving our opinions about the choices made in the play, and we paused, and I thought about it a bit more and had to say it, “You know, It was just all about relationships.”  Spoiler Alert  I’m going to talk about the plot now…. So, King Charles makes a decision based on his conscience. His son goes against his decision because his wife is pressuring him to do so. In the end Charles abdicates his throne because he doesn’t want to be estranged from his sons and grandchildren. Prince Harry gives up his low-birth girlfriend because he values his relationship with his brother more. (Sadly, the play was written pre-Meghan Markle.) Yeah. It was all about relationships.

If you think about your life, it too is all about relationships. Think about your job. It is very probable that you like or dislike your job based on the people you are working with. Think about the difficult things you’ve done in your life. It’s very likely that you did them because of a relationship in your life. I remember when I had my first child. I was twenty-two. I did not have my driver’s license because, frankly, I was terrified of driving. Then I had this baby. I needed to take her to her doctor’s appointments. I needed to get to the grocery store at random times because she needed things. I wanted to be able to take her places. So, I got my driver’s license. Because of relationships.

Someone asked Jesus,

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)

Relationships. Relationship with God. Relationship with people. That’s what it’s all about. Think about it. What do we consider having the most worth here on earth?  Our spouses, parents, siblings, extended family, children, grandchildren, best friends, coworkers, companions…It is these people that give our life meaning. I love the fact that Jesus says yes, the most important thing is to love God and then love people. It’s simple, it’s not a giant list of requirements and hurdles to jump over. It’s a two-step process. Loving God, being in relationship with him…and then he’s the one who gives us the grace and power to love the people around us. It’s hard to do one without the other. This is the reality I live in, the questions I have to ask myself to gauge how I’m doing in life…Am I loving God with everything that I am? Am I loving the people around me? Because, after all, It’s all about relationships.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 9 Diary of a Sugar Detox

Last week I wrote that I was going to fast sugar for a week. But not until I had finished eating my Valentine’s chocolate. Well, Sunday night I had one more chocolate left. I toyed around with the idea of hanging on to that last chocolate for an indefinite amount of time so I wouldn’t have to start my fast, but finally decided to stop dragging my feet. Besides, I had developed a tooth ache and sugar wasn’t sounding very good anyway. I gave my last chocolate to my husband and decided to start Monday morning. My end goal is to break the sugar addiction so that sugar becomes an occasional treat instead of a daily necessity. I ended up keeping an informal diary…

Day 1: First day without sugar. I don’t think this is going to be a problem. My teeth are hurting so badly that I don’t want to eat anything except lukewarm soup. Maybe some soft bread. I reached for a grape in the fridge and then thought about biting into the cold fruit and how my teeth wouldn’t like that and I immediately returned the grape to the fridge.

Day 2: I’m proud of my breakfast. A bowl of chicken vegetable soup, some toast and an orange. Breakfast is always the hardest time of day for me to avoid sugar. How do I live without cereal, or oatmeal with brown sugar, or pastries, or sweetened yogurts, or muffins? I’m starting to feel a headache coming on which always happens to me when I cut sugar out of my diet. I’m going to exercise and drink tea and lots of water and hope it doesn’t get too bad. I keep finding myself thinking, maybe I’ll have a granola bar..wait no sugar.. Maybe I’ll make some caramel popcorn for the kids…wait no sugar…Maybe I’ll put some strawberry jam on my toast..wait no sugar.. I think it’s going to get harder before it gets easier.

Day 3: Today has been my grumpy day. I woke up with a mild headache and felt a bit queasy. Either I was coming down with something or my body was struggling to adjust to the lack of sugar in my system. All day I gravitated towards sugary food only to have to remind myself, NO SUGAR! This evening I had to go to Walmart. It was 9:30 at night and I was tired. I pulled into the parking lot and I thought, hmm, I should get a nice donut. Wait. No sugar. Then I wondered why I wanted a donut..and that would be because I’m tired. I needed a boost to get me through this last push of grocery shopping and getting home and putting groceries away before I could finally collapse into bed. I’ve never been big on caffeine, but instead I think I use sugar to give me that jolt of energy I need. I tried to think of what I could buy that would do the same thing, but didn’t have sugar. I saw a bag of fresh, crisp, green grapes and that looked good so I put them in the cart. Then I was walking past the cookie aisle and I saw the sugar-free cookie section. Yes! Cookies! Without sugar! Perfect! Of course, I had an inner voice lecturing me about chemicals and additives and fake stuff that wasn’t going to be any better for my body, but who cares, cookies sounded good. I finally got out to the car, put the groceries in the back of the van and pulled out both the sugar-free cookies and the grapes and brought them to the front of the van with me. I decided to experiment. I ate a grape, savored it for a minute. Then I pulled out a cookie, tried to savor it. It was a bit gross. Just a bit. It was definitely sweet, but did not deliver that oomph that real sugar does. It was actually pretty unexciting. I put the cookies away and continued to munch on the grapes. Maybe this counts as a small victory.

Day 4: For some reason, this has been the hardest day so far. Isn’t this supposed to be getting easier? I woke up with a headache (about the only time I get headaches is when I make major changes to my diet). I’ve felt tired and listless and just want to stay in bed. I’m feeling disappointed because it seems like I should be getting more energy. I’ve been exercising from 30 minutes to an hour every day for several weeks now and I still feel sore and achy at night. I was hoping that getting off sugar would give me more energy, but apparently I’m not at that stage yet. Right now my body seems to be in shock and can barely drag through the day. Three nights in a row now I have laid in bed exhausted and wide awake, my dear friend Insomnia paying a visit. It kind of makes you pause and think, what on earth have I been doing to myself? What is this drug that I’ve been drowning myself in? And yes, you might think, well maybe this has nothing to do with sugar, maybe you’re just fighting a virus. I might be tempted to think that, except that this has happened every single time I have taken sugar out of my diet ( I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve done that, and yet I still always go back to eating sugar). I’m thinking I’m going to have to extend this fast for another week just so I can get it fully out of my system and start reaping some of the benefits.

 

Well, three more days to go before I’m officially done with the fast. It’s funny, I always flippantly think, Oh, I’ll just stop eating sugar, or white bread, or junk food. I forget how hard it is to change your course, your path, the normal way you do things. I’m glad I’m doing this whole healthy thing slowly. I don’t think I can handle more than one change at a time. Hopefully by next week I’ll be sugar free and boasting about how much energy I have. We’ll see. See y’all next week.

Tears in Honor of You

It’s Tuesday evening. Time to write my blog for Wednesday. All afternoon I’ve been wondering what to write about. My mind circles around the thought and then instantly turns to something else. I think I’m going to read a bit more of my book. I think I’m going to practice piano a bit. I think I’m going to wash the dishes. And of course, the children are a constant presence of distraction, look at this mom, watch me mom, Mom he hit me, Mom I’m hungry. I allow myself to be distracted all day. And then, this evening I think, I need to go write my blog. And the thought comes to me, in order to write a blog, you have to think about something. Ah yes. There is the problem. I don’t want to think. Thinking is painful right now. A very good friend of mine’s grandbaby died this weekend. She was just a baby. A sweet wonderful baby. I didn’t know her, but I had heard all about her from her proud grandparents. I’d seen the occasional pictures scattered across Facebook. And I still feel paralyzed by the thought that such a loss has touched people that I know and love.

I don’t want to think because every time I let my mind focus on something, it comes back to this pain. Feeling pain and mourning are not things that I am good at. I am a missionary kid. I spent my entire childhood moving from one extreme place to another. Studies have been done on missionary kids and it seems to be a universal experience that we all struggle with mourning. We uproot so many times, have so many goodbyes to say to all that is familiar, and we rarely take the time to properly mourn all that we have lost. Mourning is painful. I think we naturally try to avoid pain. I know that for myself, my coping mechanism is to suppress it. Ignore it, push the thoughts down until they stop resurfacing. Drown it. Except that the pain doesn’t go away, it just lingers below the surface, waiting for a chance to reappear. And then it shows up in strange, unexpected places. Like the time I had my first miscarriage.

It happened while we were out of town, camping in another state. I was staying at a campsite in our camper with our children while my husband was working nearby, 14-16 hour days, working on a construction project. It was a couple weeks long project and the kids and I had gone with my husband so we wouldn’t be separated for so long. I was in a campground trying to take care of six children on my own and I miscarried. It was early on in the pregnancy. There wasn’t anything I could do. And I didn’t have time to mourn. I cried a little, but I was in shock and overwhelmed and trying to put a brave face on for my kids and my husband. And then, a month later, we were back home in Tennessee and I was sitting in church, the service had just ended and something snapped and I started sobbing. For a long time. And I am so relieved that this particular grief rose to the surface so I could properly mourn.

My friend who lost her grandbaby, she is special to me because many years ago she started me on a long journey of healing. I don’t know how to describe her relationship to me except as a co-therapist. We listen to each other. We provide a safe place for each other and other women as we dig down and resurface these stories that haven’t been properly mourned. And it seems that the only way I can honor my friend and her grief is to not let myself run away from the pain, as peripheral to my life as it is. To let myself feel it, mourn alongside her. Not suppress, let myself be sad. Give myself permission to grieve.

So, My dear friend, this is how I honor you and your ministry, your family, your devastating loss. I will allow myself to grieve with you.

There Are No Words

It’s a rainy Sunday morning. I am home with most of my children. My husband took one of our teenagers to church because she was scheduled to help teach Sunday School. The rest of us are staying home in hopes that we can avoid exposure to any flu germs that might be floating around. Our county has been overwhelmed with flu, to the point that they are closing schools for the second time this coming week. We have been extremely fortunate that none of us have gotten sick yet. I decided that we would lay low for the next couple days and hopefully manage to avoid the sickness completely.

Our fire is going strong in our wood stove. The kids have been in a good mood, playing with each other, reading books. We had our own Sunday service, sang some songs, read a bible story, worked on memorizing our next Bible Verse. The kids are now watching some cartoon videos about the 10 Commandments.

It’s one of those mornings when you just feel happy and content. It’s the kind of feeling that you wish you could bottle up somehow and pull out on your bad days.

 

(time break)

 

As I was writing about how content and happy I was, I received a text from a very good friend of mine telling me that her grandbaby had died in the night. I am in shock. I find myself just saying, NO, no, no, no…somehow, if I deny it, it will make it untrue. The rain outside feels sinister. My house feels cold. I feel fear as I look at my children. What would I do if one of them died? I can’t even go there.

Last night I dreamed that my husband had died. The entire dream was about trying to avoid the Overwhelming Physical Pain of his being gone, and it couldn’t be avoided. And suddenly that dream has become reality for my friend and her family and I have a desperate need to help them. How can I lessen their pain? It is impossible.

I think about the bible verses we talked about this morning, hardly an hour ago. 1 Corinthians 13. God is love. This is what love looks like. Psalm 139. God knows us completely. There is nowhere we can go to flee his presence. Matthew 22:36-40 What’s the greatest commandment? Love God. Love People.

Lord, this love thing hurts. My heart is hurting. It’s a physical pain. And it hurts more because I know that my level of pain is only a small fraction of what this family is feeling. I have no words. Anything I say would seem pat and condescending. There are no words to say to someone who has lost their child.

All I can do is cry alongside you. Mourn with you. Let my heartbreak join with yours.

May you one day feel peace again. Until then we mourn with you.

Fat Fridays: Week 8 There’s a Place for Law

I read a book recently, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Rooftop, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master” by Rachel Held Evans. It’s a good book. She explores the whole idea of what does it mean to be a biblical woman, and in the process points out how we tend to pick and choose which “biblical womanhood” principles that we like. In the book she set out different tasks to achieve each month. One of those tasks was to observe an orthodox Sabbath day. At the end of a very peaceful day where she found herself truly at rest, she observes,

“I knew in a way that I hadn’t known before that we had created a false dichotomy, that sometimes the law is grace.”

That statement has stayed with me. We talk about law versus grace, always coming down on the side of grace, but, as Ms Evans observed, following the law can be a form of grace. I have noticed this in the realm of exercise. I set myself a law: no reading unless you are on the elliptical. I love reading so I got on the elliptical a lot. I am now doing thirty minutes to an hour every day on the elliptical. It’s become a habit. But it’s also become a source of dealing with bad moods, irritation, lethargy. I notice I’m feeling bad and so I go get on the elliptical. I have fallen in love with exercise and all the benefits it gives me. I’ve relaxed the “read only on the elliptical” law because I no longer need it. I now want to exercise.

I have also been thinking about this in terms of food. I have already come to the conclusion that I’m not going to do well living in a rigid, highly structured “diet” plan. It goes against my personality, it sets me up for a big crash. But, there is a place for discipline, “law”. I have a very real sugar addiction. It is my go-to, feel-good, substance of choice. Feeling irritated? Eat chocolate. Feeling angry? Go buy a donut. Wanting to celebrate? Eat ice cream. I was kind of hoping that as I adopted a healthier lifestyle that I would just naturally reduce my sugar intake. So far that hasn’t happened. I am realizing that in order to eat less sugar I’m going to have to put down some heavy Law in my life and fast from sugar for a while. I do not want to make a statement that from this day forward I will no longer eat sugar. I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it. But, I think I’m going to have to take a break from it so that I can get rid of the addiction and form a bit healthier relationship with the substance. It’s really hard to gradually reduce your intake when you are dealing with addiction. I have found in the past that if I could completely go off sugar for a week, sugar lost it’s hold on me. I no longer had this daily craving to go eat something sweet. Fruit started tasting sweet and satisfying again.

So, this is my goal. Fast sugar for a week. Break the addiction. Start treating sugar as an occasional treat instead of a daily need. I’ll let you all know how it goes. Of course, I’m not starting today. My husband gave me box of chocolates for Valentines Day. When those are all gone, then I’ll start. 🙂

The Family Bed

The Family Bed. Ah yes. Such a lovely thing… Just to make sure we are all on the same page, let me define that for you.

Family Bed: noun. Mom and Dad’s bed. The place where nursing babies, crying toddlers, scared children, and sick children gravitate to in the middle of the night. There is always room for one more. 

(courtesy of Esther Heneise)

I have endured the family bed for 18+ years now. With our first child we were highly influenced by the trend of making your baby learn how to sleep through the night at an early age and if she came to our bed in the night, we took her back to her own bed immediately. Then we had more kids and we just got tired, and we also realized that the time we had to pour out affection on our kids was actually finite and so we just resolved to welcome our children whenever they wanted us. Which for some reason or other, is often in the middle of the night. 

We have had nights when I’ve counted five kids in the bed by the time we hit morning. We have had nights, more than once, when a child walks into our room and says, “Mom I’m not feeling well…” and then promptly throws up on our bed. We have had nights when the abundance of children in our bed has made one or both of us adults abandon the parental bed and go sleep in one of the empty children’s beds. (They usually end up following us though.) Let me say, this doesn’t happen every night, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My six oldest have outgrown the need for parents in the night and I realize that our time is short. But, every once in a while we get nights like last night where I question my relaxed philosophy.

So, last night my husband and I had the lights out by 11pm. We were fast asleep when somewhere around 2 am I heard the telltale rattle of our doorknob, accompanied by the fretful cry of the two year old. Since this is a regular routine, you would think I would react calmly. But no. Every night, without fail, I jerk awake and poke my husband, ANDY! THE BABY! I don’t know why I do this. It is my nighttime response to anything unexpected…ANDY! DO SOMETHING! Maybe because I know that I am incapable of doing anything coherently in the middle of the night and I hold on to a slim hope that my husband will somehow be better able to cope. Which, he isn’t. He grunts and lays there. I poke him again. THE BABY! OPEN THE DOOR FOR THE BABY! He grunts again. Grumbles, “He can open the door himself.” Which, three out four times he usually can. I’m just always worried about that 1 time when he can’t.

We lay there listening to the door knob rattle and then finally the door opens and we hear the trotting feet of a baby boy. He comes around the bed and climbs in with me. He’s still nursing, which is unusual for me. I have weaned all my others between a year and eighteen months, but this is our last baby and I’ve been dragging my feet about giving up the last tie to babyhood. I let him nurse for a while, then I’m over it and I tell him to go to sleep. He is a hot-natured baby and so he hates to be under the covers. Andy and I both want to be under the covers. This makes for an awkward arrangement, but we finally all settle back down to sleep. (Because taking him back to his bed at this point, is a lesson in futility.)

About thirty minutes later, I jerk awake again. I’m pretty sure I just heard footsteps. I squint into the dark and there is our six year old daughter, hovering by the bed. The kids have learned to hover on their dad’s side of the bed, not mine, since I usually wake up, see a face five inches from mine and scream, which then makes them scream. All very unpleasant. They now hover on their dad’s side of the bed, because he doesn’t wake up. 

My little girl looks like she woke up from a bad dream. Lately she has developed a fear of the dark which wreaks havoc on bedtime. I tell her, Get in your dad’s side of the bed, this side is already taken. She peers into the bed and sees the baby laying next to me. She lifts up the blankets and crawls in next to her dad. Fine. She’s not bothering me. I can still sleep.

An hour later I wake up again. More footsteps. Good grief. Is this an epidemic? There is the seven year old daughter. She shares a room with the six year old and must have woken up, saw her sister was gone and got scared also. I’m not sure what to tell her. We already have four people in the bed. I tell her to go sleep in my armchair in the corner of the room. There’s a lap blanket on the chair that she can use. She hesitates, nods her head and goes over to the chair. Fifteen minutes later she is hovering by the bed again. Apparently the chair is too far away from mom and dad. I sit up a bit, survey the bed, and then point at a small open space in between my husband’s feet and my feet. Crawl in over there, I say, pointing at the foot of the bed. She nods again, lifts up the blankets and crawls in at the bottom. I silently groan. Now I can no longer fully stretch my feet out. There is no way I’m going to make it through a whole night like this. 

Sure enough, a couple minutes later, Andy has had enough. He is squeezed in between two babies and now has another child curled up by his feet. He sits up. “You two girls need to go back to your bed!” Instant crying.  I check the time. 5 am. The girls still have two more hours before I need to get them up for school. It’s time to take one for the team. I crawl out of the bed, grab my pillow and tell the girls to come with me. We all head up to their bedroom and climb into their big double bed. I am stuck in the middle, and since the girls sleep in the bed sideways instead of the proper way, my feet are now hanging off the edge of the bed. I brought my phone along with me because it has my alarm which is going to go off at 6:45 am. I lay there. Wide awake. Waiting for my alarm to go off. 

I’m pretty sure this is why moms take naps during the day.