The Power of Being Real

I just finished reading a book called “The Elephant in the Room” by Tommy Tomlinson. It is an autobiography about a Southern man who is morbidly obese (446 pounds) and his journey to losing weight. It is a very honest book that explores how he got to this place and what kept him there. It also is a kind of yearlong journal as he struggles to walk on a different path. What I love about the book is that there is no quick fix. No amazing new diet that completely turns his life around. It is simply a slow, long, hard walk to start making small changes, one step at a time, and slowly change his direction. At the end of the year (SPOILER ALERT) he has only lost 25 pounds. But, after reading through the whole book, you are able to marvel at what a victory that is and have hope that he can continue on this slow crawl towards better health. After reading the book which was published in 2017, I looked online to see if there were any updates on his journey. I found an interview that was done in January of 2019 and as of that date, he was continuing the course. The weight was still slowly coming off. No major dramatic losses, just one pound at a time. 

 

There is something powerful about being real. About acknowledging that you are weak. You struggle. You have some major flaws that don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. There is something powerful about hearing about another person’s struggle with some besetting sin and finding out that the only way they have slowly conquered this sin is by very hard, very slow work. Two steps forward, one step back. 

 

I think what makes it so impactful, so powerful, is that when we are real, we help others to not feel alone. And not feeling alone gives us hope. It is so easy to have a weakness and feel like you are the only one who struggles in this area. We feel like the wimp, the frail link, the failure. Everyone else seems to get along just fine and here we are, all alone in the corner, unable to overcome this particular problem. We must be a freak. 

 

And then a friend whispers in your ear, I have that exact same problem! And suddenly your whole perspective changes. Oh, this is just another problem that is common to mankind. I’m not abnormal. 

 

This is probably why young mothers love to gather together and compare notes. My baby does this weird thing, have you ever heard of that before? OH YES! My kid did the same thing when he was that age! And the mom gives a sigh of relief and then they compare notes and try to help each other figure out how to deal with the problem. This spirit of camaraderie is so uplifting. So encouraging. 

 

We need to expand this Realness to other areas in our life. We need people in our lives that can tell us, I really struggle with eating more than I should. I have a hard time keeping away from the bad stuff on the internet. I really struggle with being kind to my spouse. I have an anger problem. I spend money that I don’t have because shopping cheers me up. I have a hard time not gossiping. I have a real problem with anxiety and depression…Things that we all struggle with, but we think we are struggling alone. 

 

When someone shares something that they are struggling with, it encourages me, but when someone gives off the persona of being Perfect, it alienates me. I feel like you must belong to a higher level of humanness than me. You are in some special club that I can never be a part of. And it makes me withdraw into myself. I feel like I need to hide my imperfections from you since you obviously wouldn’t understand them. 

 

I used to find people who gave off an “I’m perfect” persona were really irritating. Being around them just fueled my own insecurities. But, God has been showing me some things lately.

He’s been teaching me that there is no such thing as a perfect person. But, there are people who are so afraid of their imperfections and their unhealed wounds that they will do everything possible to keep them hidden. And they put on a show, an outward appearance of having everything together. It’s their own form of self-defense. And that’s ok. Facing your imperfections and your wounds is not easy and sometimes you are so busy surviving, you just don’t have any energy left over to try and tackle these deep issues. 

 

So, to my people who have mastered the art of being real, thank you. Your willingness to be open about your problems is such an encouragement to me. And to my perfect friends, thank you for putting up with me and all my messiness. I’m hoping that some of my messiness will rub off on you and maybe some of your perfect habits will rub off on me. It’s a good exchange.  

 

Thoughts From a Bewildered American

I have been paying a bit more attention to the news lately. Not my most-favorite thing to do. I tend to ignore the news, avoid it as much as possible. I hate all the in-fighting of our politics. I hate the fact that I no longer feel like I can trust any of the news services, as they all seem to be reading off the same propaganda sheet, one for the left, one for the right. My cynicism tells me that everything the news says needs to be taken with a grain of salt. 

 

And then there is the upcoming Presidential election to look forward to. I have friends who love Donald Trump. They hail him as the only person who can fix our country, and are full of praise for the things he has accomplished so far. Then I have friends who despise Donald Trump. He is a dangerous, foolish, racist, untrustworthy, white supremist, nationalist who deserves the death penalty. Can anyone say Polarized Politics? 

 

Just to give you an idea of where I stand, I took one of those tests that tell you where you are on the political spectrum. I was dead center in the middle. Not republican. Not democrat. There are lots of things from both parties that I like and lots of things from both parties that I don’t like. 

 

I don’t think I am alone in finding myself stuck in the middle. Yes, there are some things Trump has done that I agree with. Probably the biggest one has been his helping to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization whose roots began in eugenics, with the specific desire to eliminate the black race. It has now turned into a billion dollar industry that sells body parts of aborted babies for money. So, yes, Yay Trump. On the other hand, I find his constant Tweets to be very embarrassing to read, not the level of diplomacy and maturity that I would expect from a President. Not to mention a bunch of other things he’s done that I don’t agree with.

 

But then I look at the up and coming Democratic Candidates and it makes me shake in my boots. So far, every single one of them has said that they support late-term abortion. If an adult can look me in the face and tell me that they think it’s ok to violently kill a baby that, if allowed to be born, could live a full life…if that person can tell me to my face that they believe that there is nothing wrong with that…how on earth can I trust this person to rule our country in a way that would line up with my morals or my world view? 

 

So, what is a person supposed to do? I look at our government and from my small perspective, it looks broken. It looks like a humongous, gigantic, enormous machine that is running at full steam, bulldozing over anything that gets near it, and it doesn’t work any more, and there isn’t anyone to shut it down and fix it. I am beyond believing that we just have to vote in the right candidate and he/she will fix everything. I don’t think it can be done. Look at Trump. According to his supporters, he’s fixing things. Look at how much resistance he has. They’re trying to impeach him for heaven’s sake. If Trump is supposed to be our “Saviour” then I think we should all be getting worried about now. 

 

I feel very much like I am in a position of No Power. Yes, I can vote. But, even if my vote actually counts for something, I don’t even know how to cast my vote. Last election my choices were Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Hilary is tied to one of the biggest coincidences in history: anyone who has had dirt against her or her family has somehow had a sudden urge to commit suicide or somehow got involved in a fatal vehicle accident. Not exactly who I want to be my President. Then there is Donald Trump. Someone who’s public character and personality are the kind that I point to as an example to my children of what Not to Be. I went to the polls last election and ended up not casting a Presidential Vote because I couldn’t put my name next to either candidate. 

 

So, what do we do? While my Trump supporters will continue to support him, and my loyal Democrat friends will vote for their candidate, what about the rest of us? The people who don’t associate themselves with either Republican or Democrat…Are we resigned to simply watch, helpless observers, as our country continues to fall more apart? After all, history has proven that Third Party Candidates don’t seem to ever have a chance. 

 

This is one of those posts where I don’t have an answer. Just a bunch of questions from a Bewildered American. 

 

(I know this is a political post, I would love to hear your comments…let’s just keep it polite!)

 

I’m not dead yet

So, this happened last night. 

broken

I’m typing one-handed so this is going to be short. Life has been tossing some curve balls. This happened at the end of yesterday, the day I dealt with head lice, my husband’s resignation from his job, and trying to keep track of a traveling older child who was going cross-country. Throw in a couple other major headaches I won’t mention, and that sums up Esther’s not-so-great, not-so-wonderful, drama-filled day (to paraphrase the children’s book).

 

As I was fretting, I imagined myself on a wind-tossed sea, drowning. Kind of like Peter trying to walk on the water. And I was reminded that, like Peter, I just needed to keep my eyes focused on Jesus. 

 

So, that’s what I’m trying to do. 

 

Being thankful helps. I’m thankful my parents came today so I could go to the clinic and get my wrist fixed up. I’m thankful for prescription strength lice shampoo. I’m thankful for a gift card from a friend that let Andy and I have a date night last night. And thankful for teens that can babysit. I’m thankful for safe travels for my oldest. Thankful for my old purple house and all the crazy life it holds. Thankful for groceries in my fridge and the violet night sky. Thankful for my blog. Thankful for my friends. I hope that all you readers can have an equally thankful, blessed evening.

 

 

The Circus!

The Shriner’s Circus is in town. I was at the grocery store a couple weeks ago with my ten year old. An elderly man approached us and asked my son if he liked the circus. My son said yes and so the man handed us ten tickets to go to see the Shriner’s Circus. I hadn’t planned to attend, but after that I decided, Why not? 

 

We took our six youngest. It was held at the Thompson-Boling Arena, the same public venue where I watched my husband graduate from UT, watched our oldest two children graduate high school, and the place that our family went for years to see the annual performance of the Living Christmas Tree. I have enough good memories there that it always feels good to walk inside. 

 

We found some nosebleed seats which were actually very nice because we were right by the exit and close to the bathrooms and water fountains. As the lights went down for the show to begin I had a flashback of all the circuses I went to as a child. I remember the first circus I ever saw was in Haiti when I was five or six. After that, in Morehead, Kentucky, I remember the circus setting up in big fields right outside town. I remember the carefully organized parking lots they would create out in the cow fields, carefully stepping over large clumps of grass as we made our way to the tents. 

 

I think my parents must have been pretty on top of their game when it came to circus attendance. I’m pretty sure we went whenever the circus was in town. As a child my absolute favorite part was the ladies in their bombastic spandex outfits as they climbed up ropes and did daring feats as they danced far above our heads. They always looked so graceful. Princesses. Afterwards I would go home and climb up the rope to our swing and practice diligently, sure that I looked just as graceful as they did. 

 

Now, with my own children in attendance, I took just as much pleasure from just watching my children’s faces as they looked on in awe and amazement. Then, about ten minutes into the show, the two year old freaked out. Way too much stimulation going on here. My husband, who was sitting with him down on the other end of the line of kids, awkwardly managed to pass him to me. The poor toddler clung to me, tears coming down his face. I held him tight, murmuring into his ear so he could hear me. He calmed down and then settled into my lap, leaning back against me so he could watch from a safer position. 

 

The six year old’s eyes were shining as she gasped, sure that the acrobat was going to fall. The twelve year old jerked back in his seat when the trapeze artist fell from the sky. We had all been so focused on their antics that we hadn’t even noticed the safety net strung below them. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we saw that she was ok. When the resident daredevil did his tricks on top of a large white contraption that spun around in a big circle with a spinning wheel, I had the presence of mind to pray for his safety. I really didn’t want my children to witness him splatting on the concrete floor. I don’t know if we ever would have recovered from that. 

 

As I watched I thought about the week to come. As a child, for me and my friends, the best part of going to a circus was playing circus afterwards. We would spend hours practicing our routines, trying to figure out how we could make our own trapezes, balancing ropes, and could we get our pets to do some amazing tricks? We would practice and practice, and try to come up with some fancy costumes, usually involving our swimsuits, the only spandex we owned. Then finally, we would try to rope in some of the parents to come and watch us: charging admission, handing out paper home-made tickets. I have some vague memories of getting caught up in a rope and ending up dangling from a tree by one foot. I also seem to remember that one trick ended up with my cousin getting a near-concussion. Yep. I’m pretty sure that after the circus comes to town, the ER visits increase for a while. 

 

Now I kind of feel the need to give my kids a couple more instructions than normal. 1. Our pets don’t know how to do these tricks. Please do not try to launch one of our animals from a high place just because you saw the dog do it at the circus. 2. Even though the lady and her partner put ropes around their necks and spun from the ceiling in a fast circle, WE are not going to try to do that. 3. The motorcycle tricks were awesome, but I don’t think that a regular bike will be able to accomplish the same feats if you attempt to jump your bike off a home-made ramp. Just saying. 

 

All in all, I’m glad we went. Yes, there were some moments in the middle where the two and four year old were driving me crazy as they were unable to sit still in a seat. Not having a small fortune to spend on light-up toys and elephant rides was a bit of a downer for the kids. But, everyone got to try some cotton candy, the opinion split down the middle over whether this was AMAZING or YUCKY. (I vote Yucky). We shared some popcorn and managed to get large quantities all over the floor. We spent an afternoon together making memories. It was good. Hurray for the circus! 

 

Sickness = Failure

This past Saturday night some horrible virus jumped out of the bushes and attacked me. It started off with the sudden onset of a terrible sore throat and runny nose which then turned into fever and chills and then finally settled into my chest with really bad wheezing. I’m on the third day and still moving very slowly. The family stepped up and kept the house running and I’ve been trying to keep my distance, hoping against hope that I won’t spread this around to everyone else. 

 

Being sick is really hard for me. I know it sounds crazy, but when I get sick I kind of feel like a failure. I’m failing my family. I’m being a burden. All the work is piling up. I’m just sitting here, or laying here, being a bum. Wasting my time. If I was a healthier person and took better care of myself, I wouldn’t be susceptible to viruses. (Even though I typically only get sick a couple times a year). 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time just scrolling through Facebook. Which makes me feel even more like a bum. I have some intelligent books I could be reading. The only problem is my brain is so out-of-it that I can’t focus on anything. I decide that I will think through some issues that have been on my mind, and I can’t think. Everything has just checked out while my body fights to get better. 

 

I feel useless.  

 

A couple different friends posted this meme on FB

mamayoureallowed

This really made me pause. 

 

I am guilty of getting so caught up in the role of Mother that I forget that I am my own person. I forget that it’s ok to be human. It’s ok to have a sick day. It’s ok, and this one is really hard for me to grasp, to have goals that are unrelated to motherhood. Motherhood is so All-Consuming. It’s a role you take on and carry for the rest of your life. You never stop being a mom. And it’s such a heavy responsibility. You are shaping the lives of children. Your actions are going to have a big influence on these little human’s futures. It’s a heavy weight to carry. 

There’s a bible verse, Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)

I feel very much that Jesus called me to be a mother. And according to him, when we are doing what he wants us to do, it will not be a heavy, overwhelming load. 

 

So, what am I doing wrong? Maybe the problem is that I keep trying to do this job on my own strength instead of tapping into His Strength. Perhaps I somehow think that the fate of my children and our family rests solely on my shoulders. Instead of realizing God’s got my kids and he is more powerful than my weakness and my mistakes. 

 

The other problem is I forget that I am a human being. A child of God. A valuable person. An individual worthy of respect and care. I forget. It’s so easy to disappear into the name Mom. It’s not even your own name. Other women share the same name. It’s a title. It’s a title that assumes you will become self-sacrificing, omniscient to the needs of the family, on-call twenty-fours hours a day.  It’s really easy for Esther to slowly fade out into a memory. That person I was starting to become before I had children. 

 

When I am sick, I have to step out of the Mom-role and just become Sick Esther, in bed. Maybe that’s why it’s so disconcerting. When my identity is completely wrapped up in my work as a mother and suddenly I can’t do that work, it sends me reeling. 

 

The last several years, as I have worked my way through a long depression, I have been slowly doing the work of figuring out who Esther is again, outside of the mom role. Writing this blog is part of that journey. But, it’s really easy for me to slip back into I’m a Mom Only identity. I don’t realize it till things happen like sickness that knock me out of that role and I suddenly feel like a failure. 

 

I need to post this meme really big on my wall somehow. A daily reminder that I am allowed to just be a person who happened to catch a virus, and just needs a little time in bed till she feels better. 

 

 

It’s Fall!!

fallpic

 

It’s Fall! My absolute favorite season of the year! Technically it has been Fall since the end of September, but the weather got a bit confused and gave us a couple weeks of 90’s weather. But, it has finally figured things out, and we actually woke up to a nice brisk morning. Hurrah. I am unofficially celebrating by cooking soup, making homemade bread, having a tea party with some of my kids, and possibly lighting our cook stove tonight. 

 

Of course, I really don’t like it when I give the impression of a life that’s all bright and cheery without any bad points at all. This day has had its moments. Like this morning, when I got the entire family up and ready to go see the Shriner’s Circus, then just before we left, I checked the tickets one more time and realized that the circus is actually next weekend. Not this weekend. Oops. Unfortunately, if you are in my family, you are used to mom making colossal mistakes like this. I also went to get out my nice LLBean Flannel sheets to put on my bed and discovered that someone had taken scissors to the elastic on the fitted sheet. Thank you children. My husband said it was Entropy. I said it was children. He said children are a part of Entropy.  I also asked my girls to clean their room. They said they did. I asked if it was amazing and would I come upstairs and say Wow? And they said Yes! When I finally got around to checking their work, I did say Wow. They were right. I said, Wow, this is horrible. But, despite all of that, it is a wonderful, bright, Fall day. And I’m happy. 

 

Since I was a child Fall has always been my favorite season. From the age of six to eleven, we lived on my grandparents farm in Eastern Kentucky, back in a holler (Hollow). My grandparents had around thirty acres and all the farms around us were also big properties. We lived in a little trailer tucked up in the woods, my cousins lived down the road in one direction and my best friend lived up the hill from me. If we needed more kids than that, there were several families with kids down the holler we could invite to join us. It was really a children’s paradise. There were hills, fields, a creek, ponies, lots of dogs and cats. We had the freedom to wander all over the place without our parents worrying about us. The basic rule was: be home for meals. Check in every once in a while. 

 

Fall meant crunchy leaves all over the ground. We would make leaf piles and jump in them. Roll around in the dry, crispy carpet that covered the ground. One of my favorite memories about fall leaves was the ravine we happened upon one day while stomping around in the woods. It was a very steep incline, a good long drop down into a dry creek bed that only filled up when it rained. The side of the steep hill was covered in leaves. We discovered that if you sat down on the edge of the hill and just let yourself go, it was kind of like sledding. On leaves. Not sure if the seat of our pants stayed intact, but we had fun.

 

Another big part of fall was the smell of wood smoke. Most people in those parts heated their homes with wood burning stoves. Every fall my dad would get his big red farm truck and load us up in the back then head off down some little trail into the woods where he had scouted out some fallen trees. We would then spend the day playing on the fallen tree while my dad did the heavy cutting with his chainsaw. When he had the wood cut to movable pieces my brother and I would then step in and help load it all into the back of his truck. When the truck was as full as he could make it, we would climb on top of the wood and ride slowly back home. Where we then had to unload all the firewood and stack it up into a woodpile behind our trailer. It was a family project and we all felt content when we knew we had enough firewood stacked for winter. 

 

Fall. It’s bright red cheeks from running outside in the cold. Dark by suppertime. Hot soup and warm bread. Reading books out loud next to a fire. Blue jeans and flannel shirts. Slippers and robes in the early mornings. A time for pumpkins and hay bales and hot apple cider. What’s there to not love? 

 

So, I’m off to enjoy my fall evening. We’ll have some pinterest-worthy moments, and we’ll have some crazy, smack-my-head, roll-my-eyes moments, cause I’ve still got a houseful of kids, but I’m going to choose to be happy, cause it’s Fall! 

 

Thinking About Heaven

Today I was sorting clothes in my room, finishing up the great Seasonal Clothes Exchange, and I was bored, so I decided to listen to something off of Youtube on my phone. I normally don’t do this because I usually have so many interruptions that it’s impossible to really listen to something properly, but the kids had friends over, they were all playing outside, and I decided to chance it. I randomly decided to look for something by Tim Keller. I found an interesting sermon on heaven and settled in to enjoy it. One thing he said really stood out to me. He was saying that heaven is all about God’s presence. That’s the whole thing. Being in God’s presence. He said that people have criticized him for claiming that the only way to heaven is through Jesus, and he pointed out the question, Why would you want to go to heaven if you’re not in love with Jesus? Heaven is all about being with him! 

 

I really had to sit with that thought. If you’re not in love with Jesus, then you’re not going to like heaven. Cause it’s all about him. 

 

A couple weeks ago I was driving to another city in the car, solo road trip. I had a lot of time to just think. I was listening to the Christian radio and the song, “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercyme came on. I love that song. It is essentially just imagining what it will be like when we get to heaven and see Jesus.  I was singing along and wondering myself, what will I do when the time comes? And then I thought about my children. And it was almost a fierce thought. My children must go to heaven too. I don’t know if it could be heaven if my children weren’t there. And I had this realization that if God had created some kind of system where we could barter our way into heaven, I would have unhesitatingly bartered my own soul to make sure my children made it into heaven. I love them that much. And I was thinking these fierce thoughts, and it was like Jesus just whispered, That’s how I feel about you. I wanted you in heaven so much that I came and died on the cross. And it suddenly occurred to me, That’s how Jesus wants us to feel about everybody. He wants us to love everybody with that fierceness that says, They’ve got to be there too!

 

That kind of rocked me back on my heels. I do not feel that way about everyone. Who do I fiercely desire to see in heaven? My husband. My children. Parents, siblings. Some extended family. A couple close friends. But, as far as exchanging my life for theirs if that were possible? Probably just my own children, if I’m honest. And yet, that fierce desire to see other people saved, in relationship with Jesus so that they too will go to heaven, that is what we are called to as Christians. We are called to that kind of deep love. 

 

And all I can do is say, Lord! Change my heart! Give me your heart for these people who surround me, my neighbors that I pass every day. The people of my community, my city, my state, my country. The world. May my heart be changed so that I long for the day when I can be in Jesus’ presence, but at the same time, I can say fiercely, I need these other people to be there with me! 

 

Here’s a link to “I can only Imagine” if you’d like to listen:

I Can Only Imagine by Mercyme