“Don’t Talk” a poem

Tired.

Weary.

My brain has turned off. 

I have reached full capacity. 

Do not tell me anymore what is in the news. 

Do not tell me of yet another tragedy. 

Don’t try to rehash what happened. 

Don’t ask about solutions.

As if my tiny bit of wisdom could somehow fix the unfixable. 

Don’t talk. 

Cry. 

Come alongside me and mourn. 

This is a time for sackcloth. 

Ashes. 

A time for solemn silence. 

I don’t want to hear the talking heads on the tv. 

I don’t want to have discussions on what possibly went wrong. 

I just need silence. 

Let us mourn together. 

In silence perhaps our souls can mend. 

And maybe, we can talk, discuss, plan, fix everything…

Tomorrow. 

What Does it Mean?

John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

 

I just read this verse this morning. The phrase, “will be loved by my Father” stood out to me. And the question, What does it mean to be loved by the Father? 

 

I was staring off into space, thinking about this, and my phone gave me some kind of alert, and I glanced down at my phone and saw this Picture that I had taken and was using as my screensaver. 

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It was from a walk I got to take a couple weeks ago when we were visiting a state park. My husband watched the kids while I took a solo jaunt in the woods. It was a beautiful walk. The kind of scenery that spoke to my soul and gave me joy. Nothing overtly breath-taking, just beautiful woods and greenery and light filtering through the trees. 

 

I looked at this picture and thought, this is what it means to be Loved by the Father. He created this beautiful world and then he arranged for me to be able to be out and about in it. 

 

I smiled at this thought, and then looked up. My daughter was just standing by my chair. No reason. She was playing her Minecraft, and decided that standing by my chair was a good place to play. I looked at her beautiful pixie face, her dark hair pulled back into a messy bun that a model would envy, her eyes so bright and intelligent. And I thought, this is what it means to be loved by the Father, a houseful of amazingly sweet, intelligent, fun children. 

 

A bit later, I was trying to deal with the mystery of why my washing machine was making noises and yet the power was turned off, and even when I tried to turn the power back on, it wouldn’t turn on, and yet the machine continued to make noises. I called my husband. Walked through some different steps over the phone with him, then when a large electric spark erupted while I was attempting to plug the machine back in, I just walked away from the whole thing. No laundry today. I’ll wait for you to get home and figure this out. 

 

And I thought, this is what it means to be loved by the Father. He has given me a Godly, wonderful husband who loves me and who takes care of his family. (And fixes washing machines!)

 

I thought about the question some more…What does it mean to be Loved by the Father? I suddenly remembered last night. I was watching an online class on trauma and how it shapes children’s minds, and different strategies to help bring healing. One of the first steps they gave was, Understand Yourself and your Own trauma. And I realized, that’s exactly what God has been doing over the last several years. Putting me in a place where I can understand myself better. Understand my own history. And now, from that understanding he is putting me in a place where I can help others who need healing from their trauma. 

 

And that is what it means to be loved by the Father. He not only blesses you, but then he gives you opportunities to take those blessings in order to bless others. Like one of my pastors likes to point out, in Genesis 12: 2-3, God blessed Abraham, so that he could bless others. 

 

What does it mean to be loved by the Father? 

 

I think it’s one of those questions that can be given a different answer every time you ask it. Tomorrow my list would look different. Yesterday, I would have told you that being loved by the Father was about living in community with others and the richness that brings to your life. The day before that I would have said that being loved by the Father was about his Amazing Grace no matter how much I mess up. 

 

Today, I think I will end with Peace. It’s peace. Knowing that I am loved and taken care of. Knowing that all things are in his hands. Not striving. Just Peace.

 

I am loved by the Father. 

How to Become a Diamond

Have you all ever heard that song “He’s Making Diamonds” by Hawk Nelson? Two of the lines, 

“He’s making diamonds out of dust….He’s making diamonds out of us..”  have been running through my head. The imagery, of course, being that diamonds are made out of ordinary things that have gone through intense pressure.

 

I was thinking about how the person that I am today is a direct result of my decision to have, in the end, ten children. Difficult pregnancies, learning how to manage a lot of things all at the same time…learning how to live without sleep, learning how to give up my rights to personal space and personal time and freely give those rights to my children instead…Learning how to be consistent with discipline, learning how to be constantly thinking of others first…all these things have shaped who I have become today. Intense pressure, creating something good. 

 

And it occurred to me that having foster kids is doing the same process. I never knew what kind of intense pressure came with this job. Sure, I academically knew in my brain, this is going to be a lot of work…but really knowing? I had no idea. 

 

But there is hope. Intense pressure can create beautiful things. Diamonds. And I wonder…what kind of person is God shaping me to be? I mean, can you really improve on Esther? 🙂 (That is a joke.) Apparently, God isn’t done with me. He’s decided that he wants to take me to the next level. Maybe the next level of patience? Maybe the next level of long-suffering? Maybe the next level of compassion? Maybe the next level of wisdom? 

 

I guess I’ll have to wait and see. Right now all I can see and feel is the intense pressure. These past couple weeks, I am pretty sure that there has been a moment in each day where I think, I can’t do this anymore. I’m done. And then, lo and behold, I get up and do it again the next day. I guess I wasn’t done? 

 

I remember one time, when I was nineteen, I had my first struggles with anxiety. I spoke to a counselor only once, but I remember telling him that I felt like I was on the edge of a cliff, about to fall off. And he suggested that maybe I should get that image in my head again, and this time, in my imagination, move myself a lot farther away from the cliff, safely inland. In other words, a lot of the stress I was feeling was coming from my perception that I was about to completely lose it. And if I changed that perception and realized I was actually going to be ok, I was, surprisingly,  going to come through this fine, then some of the stress could be alleviated. 

 

And I have to remind myself of that again. I need to change my perception. Yes, I CAN do this. No, I’m NOT going to fail or give up. Not because I am superwoman, but because I have God. He has promised that his Strength is going to be made perfect in my Weakness. I also have a strong community that God has given me. I have had so many people reach out to me. Encourage me, offer me real help: babysitting, nights out with friends, electronic devices to help make school easier,  gifts of dessert (Much appreciated!!), offers to pray, encouraging scriptures. God has also sent a great team of in-home therapists, and outpatient therapists, and DCS workers, and medical facilities that have all gathered around and said, We are here to help in whatever way you need. 

 

And I find that my imagery is changing. Instead of seeing myself all alone, being trampled into the ground, I’m instead, seeing myself surrounded by friends and family and ESSENTIAL WORKERS and we are attacking this job together. And my weak flabby arms are ok, because God’s reaching over my shoulder with arms of strength, and he’s carrying that burden for me. 

 

And I know that through all of this, the end result is Diamonds. Not dust. 

 

For all you foster families who have been doing this so much longer than I, Thank you for what you are doing. I have always felt admiration for you, but now, I am in AWE of what you do. Thank you. 

 

The Road to Acceptance

Happy Palm Sunday everyone! It is a sunny, warm day, blue skies, light breeze. I’m sitting out on my deck. We had lunch out here today. Hot dogs and watermelon and a salad tray. Easy to make. Easy to clean up. Fun to eat. 

 

The last time I wrote, I was simmering in anger, feeling like my head was going to explode. Today I am feeling calm. Hopeful. More accepting of where we are at. How did I get from point A to point B? I would say God definitely used my family and friends and community. A family member and an old friend both surprised me and took care of some physical needs we had. A kind lady from our church sent me a card and a gift. I had a good phone conversation with my mom. I took a walk through our neighborhood and waved and said Hi to LOTS of neighbors who were sitting out on their porches or in their yards. My kids all decided to hit the pause button on their bickering, and for the last several days have been playing happily outside in the sunshine. My teenagers have been laughing and joking together and acting like they’re best friends. Domestic Peace. 

 

I also took a Productivity Class with Brian Durfee of productivity-max.com who happens to be an old friend from our church. We did it via Zoom and it was quick and painless and left me with some good tools and tips to try and reign in some of the crazy in my life. It gave me a good dose of hope, that I too, might join the ranks of the organized. 

 

As I sit here, enjoying the breeze, watching my little kids ride their bikes around the yard, I am feeling very much like God gave me the gift of peace this weekend. 

 

This morning we had a little church service with our kids. We read about Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a donkey, people shouting Hosanna. We sang songs. We talked about prayer requests and prayed together. Then I turned on a video that our church’s children’s ministry made. The children’s pastors greeted the kids by name and they sang some songs and all the different Sunday School teachers sent in a video greeting to the kids. My kids were overjoyed! And their eyes got so big when they heard Mr. John calling them out by name. They enthusiastically joined into the song time, dancing all over the living room. And I felt myself getting teary-eyed. These kids have been in our house for a month now. I don’t take them on errands. They’ve just been here. And they miss their friends and church and school, and life seems a little scary to them right now. And hearing their teachers talking to them on the TV just lit up their faces. 

 

After the kids service was done, my husband and I and our teens sat and watched our own church service that our church put out. Worshipping together and hearing our pastors was encouraging. I am so thankful for our church family. 

 

One of the pastors exhorted us to continue to reach out and get together with each other using the technology we all have at our fingertips. I need to do that. I’m so frustrated at all my limitations, that it makes me not want to be creative to see how I can actually still make connections. 

I guess, what all of this is leading to is Acceptance. This is where we are at. I have no control over the situation except to live in my home, take care of my kids the best I can, and see what I can do to be helpful to the world around me…while maintaining a 6 foot distance. 

Settling In and Reaching Out

Since December, my rallying cry has been, as soon as things calm down, we’ll settle into a good routine. That’s all we need.  A good routine. Since December we have also dealt with sickness that kept us out of school for a week, then school being closed for flu for a week, then missing who knows how many days for floods and crazy weather. And now the world has shut down, school is closed and we are all home. 

 

In a sense, I’ve got a better chance now of setting up a routine than I did before. Make a schedule for our house. I’ve got at least three weeks, minimum, to get us settled into a good routine. Most of our appointments have been cancelled. No pressure to get out and do things. Just home. 

 

Who knows, we might have such an awesome experience that we just decide to keep homeschooling, at least some of the kids. 

 

Or I might go insane. 

 

It’s a toss up. 

 

This week is our Spring Break and I told the kids I wouldn’t make them do any school work. Yesterday I took the kids to a playground. It had rained recently. When we got there, there was only one other family with two kids. Perfect. We are not interacting socially with anyone, just playing outside. Then a couple more families showed up, then more. And suddenly I felt like I was breaking a national covenant to not be near other people. We headed home. I told the kids we probably would have to skip playgrounds for a while. 

 

So, this morning I went to the Dollar Tree and picked up some puzzles and some school supplies. I sat down with the kids and we put puzzles together and then played Uno while some of the little kids played with building blocks and played Snakes and Ladders. Everyone co-operated. So nice. 

 

Of course, I’ve also dealt with some discipline issues that were so intense, one child is now spending the day with dad, sitting at a construction site. We’ve had some long time-out sessions. One child just put up a curtain around her bed to ensure privacy from pesky siblings. It’s a big mix of good and bad. Really, just life. 

 

Right now I am optimistic about how this will all play out for our family. 

 

I am also very aware that a large segment of society just lost their income as restaurants and bars were ordered closed. A bunch of small business owners are heading into a financial crisis. The entire economy of our country is just one big Question Mark right now. There are also a whole multitude of working parents who suddenly have to figure out childcare because their child’s school is closed. 

 

Last night I was dreaming about foster babies. In my dream I came home from being out and found three little babies just crying in my house. I was supposed to be taking care of them and feeding them, but no one had told me that they were dropping the babies off, and I had no idea how long they had just been sitting in my house crying. I was angry and devastated and frantically looking around for bottles and formula, trying to feed these hungry babies. 

 

I think the dream kind of mirrors how I’m feeling as I read about how many people have been put into a crisis with this pandemic. I feel the community-need to be stepping up and helping in whatever way I can. But, at the same time I feel like I’m completely maxed out. Could I babysit someone’s kids while they work? I’m not sure. I’m feeling the weight of eleven kids already. Could I donate money? Well, I give a tithe of our income every paycheck, but that little bit won’t go far. And I’m feeling the financial crunch as I’m suddenly not able to take advantage of the free breakfast and lunch at our schools. These kids eat a lot. 

 

I feel impotent. People need help. I should be helping. I’m already helping. I don’t think I can do more. Except maybe ask all of you to look around and see if you are doing all that you can. Maybe you could babysit for your friend. Maybe you can make a donation to a small business. Maybe you are in a position to offer help to someone in need. 

 

I know right now, this situation is so unexpected and different, that we are all scrambling to get our own families situated. But, if you can, I encourage you to look for some tangible way to reach out and help. It’s the only way we’re all going to make it. 

 

I Need an “I Don’t Care” Day.

It’s been a long week. We’ve got flu, strep, a ruptured ear drum, rsv, pneumonia, repeating ear infection, with ten out of eleven children sick. My husband just lost the battle this morning so that leaves me and one of my boys defying the odds. 

 

We have had a lot of support: people bringing meals, food, essential oils, homeopathic remedies, groceries, paper products…lots of people praying. I have felt very surrounded by my community. For that I am thankful. And even though the kids have been sick, only two of them have been bedridden. The three year old who has pneumonia, strep, and rsv is running around the house like everything is normal, the only difference being that when he runs too fast, he suddenly can’t breathe and then I have to give him albuterol. And for anyone who wants to criticize, I haven’t figured out how to get a three year old to stay in bed for his own good when he’s feeling full of energy. As I write now though, in the middle of the afternoon, he is conked out asleep on my bed, so I continue to trust that he will sleep when he needs it. 

 

It’s my daughter’s birthday today. Seven years old. I’ve been trying to keep the kids off sugar this week as we have been trying to recover from sickness, but today we had marshmallow cereal for breakfast cause I let my kids choose what they want to eat for their special days. (Within reason!) We’ll have cake tonight. And spaghetti, as requested. 

 

Right now, I am just sitting in my chair not wanting to move. My house is a mess. Not because it’s been a mess for a long time. It was clean last night. But you know…kids. So, once again it is a mess. I need to keep doing laundry, and fold all the dry stuff. I need to run to the store to get the birthday cake which I forgot on my run to the store last night. I need to wash dishes. I’ve got a list of important documents I’ve got to find in all my paperwork. I need to contact my piano students and let them know that, once again, I’m going to miss their lessons on Monday due to sickness in my home, and I hate that and it’s making me feel guilty. I’ve got some emails to teachers that I need to write. I need to help the one child who was sick all week, come up with a plan for catching up with her school work. 

 

Yesterday I was humming a little ditty to the bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13. I had the verse on repeat and literally was muttering it under my breath the whole day. And it was a crazy busy day. And I did all the things. And Christ gave me strength.

 

But today. Today I’m tired. I still believe I can do all things, but honestly I don’t want to right now. I just want to rest. I just want to sit in my chair with a book, be available if needed, but not engaged. 

 

Today is the traditional Sabbath day. I have always been a bit puzzled as to how a mom is supposed to have a traditional Sabbath day, as described in the Old Testament. People still have to be fed. Diapers still have to be changed. Kids still have to parented. The trash is still going to overflow in the trash can and need a new bag. I can see adults pressing the pause button for the day, I just don’t see how you do it with children. 

I have friends who observe the Sabbath, I guess I need to ask them how they do it. While I don’t particularly feel the need to have a traditional Sabbath day, I would really like a day of rest. For me, that rest would look like me taking one day where I just didn’t care. I don’t care if the dishes aren’t caught up. I don’t care that someone spilled on the kitchen floor and never cleaned it up. I don’t care that the birthday girl left a large craft project on the floor of the living room. I don’t care that the kids didn’t clean their bedrooms today. I don’t care if the laundry doesn’t get folded today. I don’t care if we watch more tv than we should. 

 

Yeah. I just need an I don’t care day. 

 

So, I’m going to post this blog, go buy a birthday cake (this sounds like work, but buying a cake instead of baking a cake, is a form of “I don’t care”), turn on the tv for the kids, pull out my book and sit by the fire for the rest of the day. Until it’s time to make the spaghetti. And give everyone their medicine. And get everyone to bed on time. Cause I’m a mom, and my rebellion can only go so far. 

 

🎶We All Need Somebody to Lean On!🎶

This Saturday I got to attend a movie with my 5th grade boy and a bunch of school children from across the county who are involved in Project Grad. We showed up at the school along with a handful of other moms and their children, got on the big yellow bus, drove downtown, and entered the movie theater through the back door. Other kids from other schools were arriving at the same time and we quickly grabbed our little tray of popcorn and a soda and went in to find a good seat. Some other families from our school were there, having used their own transportation. I asked my son where he wanted to sit. “Somewhere close to Ms.Partin!” Ms. Partin is his homeroom teacher who had the fortunate (unfortunate?) job of being one of the chaperones. I smiled. It made me happy to know that he liked his teacher so much that he would want to hang out with her even when they weren’t at school.  

We all found good seats and were hanging out, eating our popcorn, waiting for the movie to start, when suddenly someone walked into the theater that caused a big stir. Dr. Brace! It’s Dr. Brace! Kids started calling out from all over the theater, “Hi Dr. Brace!!!” It was like a celebrity had arrived. Let me explain. Dr. Brace is the principal of my kids’ elementary school. Yep. The Principal. So, why on earth would a bunch of school kids be so excited to see their Principal? Because it’s Dr. Brace. She is super-friendly, knows every single child in the school by name, and their parent’s names. She takes time out to talk and listen to the kids. She’s full of enthusiasm. In fact she went around the theater, greeting each child by name, high-fiving, checking in with parents. Then she had to go around again and get a picture of each child, and then one more time to say goodbye to everyone as she was just doing a walk-through to make sure that everything was going well for the outing. There is something about her that just makes you start smiling whenever you see her. I don’t know her personally, but I love this woman. I love the fact that she has helped to make our elementary school a safe place where kids feel loved. I love the fact that she makes parents feel welcome and feel like they can be involved and speak up about issues and concerns. I love the fact that my children count her on their list of friends.

The movie that we watched was an animated movie about a little girl who faces a crisis in her family and becomes withdrawn from her normal bubbly, creative personality. I noticed that in the movie, part of the problem was that as things got harder for her in life, she stopped turning to her family and friends. When she finally hit rock-bottom, what helped her to turn things around was remembering her mother’s words, her mother’s love for her. As things got better, she turned back to her community, and her community helped pull her through her hard situation.

Two years ago I was trying to homeschool my children while going through a very deep depression, a depression that lasted about two years. I finally hit rock bottom and had to accept the fact that homeschooling was not something I was capable of doing at the time. I put my kids in public school, a very hard decision for me. Putting my kids in school became something of a turning point. It lifted a burden that had me pinned to the floor, eased it enough that I could slowly start getting up. Slowly pull my feet back underneath me. The kids’ schools have become a community for my children and even for me and my husband as we have slowly learned how to let go and let others help us.

I love that song, “Lean on Me”. I remember singing it at the top of my lungs in the back of the car with my teenage friends as we drove home from summer camp. It’s fun. It’s a classic. Makes you feel good all over when you hear it. I think it’s all of those things though, because the words are so true. We were not made to do this life thing alone. We were made for community.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 says:

9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I am so thankful for the community we have found in our local schools. I am so thankful for the teachers and staff who work there, giving their best to my kids. I am so thankful that I don’t have to be everything to my children. That when God gave me ten children, it wasn’t with the intention that I would somehow become superwoman who can do everything all by herself, but that he had helpers lined up to help. Community to come alongside us and walk with us on this journey called life. I am thankful.

🎶“We all need somebody to lean on!” 🎶

 

P.S. I have really hesitated to post this as I don’t want my homeschooling friends to feel like I’m slamming homeschooling. That is not my intention. I just wanted to share what a blessing our schools have been to us.

A Little Bit of Hope

It’s Spring.  Winter is losing its hold on us and I feel this little thing budding up inside of me. Hope. This winter has been a struggle for me in my fight against depression. I feel like I fought well, kept picking myself back up and trying to find solutions again and again. Exercise. Try this diet. Write out my thoughts. Talk to people. Get involved. Get a Happy Light. But, no matter what I did, I kept finding myself in my chair, struggling to do the simplest chores.

Several weeks ago, in my Fat Fridays Post I said that if I could find a diet that would cure depression, I would go on it. Two days after posting that, I received two different emails from trusted sources telling me to watch an upcoming webinar by Jonathan Otto on Depression Anxiety and Dementia. It seemed like God was giving me a big nudge, so I went and watched some of it, read their free e-books. It talked about inflammation aggravating mental health issues. One of their first steps they recommended in their little book was to change your diet to fruit, vegetables and nuts. No grain, no animal products. I was desperate so I decided to give it a try. The first two weeks were really hard as my body was in shock from this drastic change. And then this Monday happened.

Monday morning, the first Monday back to school after Spring break, I woke up before my alarm went off, somewhere around 6 am. Wide awake. And happy. I got up with my little boy and fed him and dressed him and then went and got the other kids out of bed. Drove the kids to school, came home, and instead of collapsing on the couch, went and washed the dishes that had accumulated over the weekend. I then puttered around, getting the boys and I ready for our day at the homeschooling co-op where I’m teaching a couple piano lessons. Had a great day at Co-op, felt cheerful all day long. Then left co-op, went and picked up kids from school, came home and cleaned up the house, played games with my little girls, and read books to children until it was time to make supper. (Usually on Mondays co-op wears me out and by the time I get home I just want to hole up in my room with the door closed.) I felt almost giddy. Wow. This is what it feels like to have energy. hope

This morning I woke up with a pounding headache and was very tired. I’ve taken it easy today, but despite not feeling well, I haven’t felt dragged down in my mood. I’ve still managed to get chores done, spend time with my kids, and even practice the piano. And maybe this lightness of mood will become my new norm. hope

I’ve also stepped out in faith in a couple other areas. I’ve been lamenting lack of community, but at the same time not had the energy or drive to invite people over to my house. Well, we had some changes with our house church and Andy and I took the plunge and volunteered to host house church at our house, twice a month, Sundays after church. Bring enough food for your family and we’ll potluck lunch and then have a meeting. We’ve decided to take it a step further and tell everyone that our house is open every Sunday after church. Potluck and hang out. First steps to building community. I’m a little scared about making such a big commitment, but also feeling excited. hope “

My last big step of faith was to schedule a Musical Evening at my house, the beginning of May. Everyone is welcome. Just let me know you’re coming. The point of the evening is to make music accessible and fun for everyone, but especially children. I’m going to play a couple pieces, my kids are going to play music, maybe my husband will sing. Everyone who comes is invited to contribute to the music. We’ll all bring food to share too. Have a party. This is a step of faith for me, and a challenge because I’ve committed to playing music in front of people. Yikes. I haven’t done that in quite a while. I only have two children left who aren’t in school and I’ve started thinking about what I will do when all my kids are in school all day. My old dream of being a piano teacher with a bunch of students has slowly risen out of the ashes and I’ve started taking small steps towards that goal. For me, to be a serious piano teacher means I need to be getting back into music myself. So, this musical evening is a step towards my dream of teaching. hope

Aside from all these wonderful things, I have found my mind turning more and more to God. Being curious. Mindful. Wondering. Having Conversations. It feels like a hibernating part of my soul has woke up again. hope

It’s early spring yet. We still have cold mornings and plenty of drizzle-filled days in between the sunshine days. But, there is an unspoken promise in the air. The trees are putting out buds, the days are longer, there is a certain fresh smell of earth and plants when you step outside. We know that summer is just around the corner. And maybe good health, a sound mind, energy for life. Hope.

 

To anyone interested in my new diet, here’s the link:

 

www.depressionanxietyseries.com

Can You See Me?

It’s a beautiful February day here in Tennessee. Temperatures are in the 60s, a stark contrast to last week where we had snow, ice and temperatures in the teens. (To all my non-fahrenheit readers, not sure how to help you since Celsius is a mystery to me. 32 degrees F is when ice freezes, a super hot day in summer would be in the 90s.) I returned from taking my kids to school and then collapsed on the couch, not fully awake. My four year old immediately launched into a plea for me to take him to the park. Right away. Let’s get our shoes on right now Mom! Uggh. I managed to put him off until 9am when I finally gave in and got the boys ready to go out. We walked out onto the front porch and I looked around for my double stroller which has been parked on my porch for the past six months. Not there. I called my husband, thinking maybe he had put it in the shed? He said no, it should be on the porch. Still not there. I finally had to come to the conclusion that someone had walked off with it. We haven’t had stuff stolen in a while, especially since our dog does a pretty good job of scaring strangers away. Double uggh.

Ok, fine. We’ll just walk without a stroller. The park is only two and half blocks away, surely the two year old can make it. Well, about half way he decided that, No, he couldn’t make it. We had a showdown in the middle of the sidewalk for about five minutes. I insisted he could walk. He insisted I should carry him. I told him I would hold him, but I wasn’t walking with him, he had to walk to the park. So, he would refuse to walk then hold his hands up for me to pick him up. I would pick him up and then refuse to walk. He would urge me forward and I would tell him that if he wanted to go the playground he had to walk there. He finally figured out I wasn’t moving on this and so he wiggled back down to the sidewalk and proceeded to run the entire rest of the way to the park, which solidified my theory that he wasn’t tired, just lazy. I also knew that by the time he was done playing on the playground he was going to be truly exhausted and then I was going to have to carry him all the way home. I needed to conserve my energy for the return trip.

The entire time on the playground the kids kept turning to me, “Mommy look!” “Mommy come help me with this!” “Mommy! See!” “Mommy!” As I trailed around behind them on the playground I thought about how important it was that I see them. They had an insatiable need to be seen. In fact, all my kids have this need. A big chunk of my parenting is simply giving my kids attention. Listening to their stories. Looking at the things they make. Watching the new tricks they’ve learned. Finding out about their day. When my kids get home from school I sit in my chair or on the couch and I just listen. For a couple hours. It doesn’t look like I’m doing a whole lot. Just sitting there. But, for this introvert, it’s actually the most exhausting time of my day. The time when I see my kids. See who they are. See what interests them. See their hopes and dreams.

I just started rereading a book called Taken by Dee Henderson. It’s about a woman who was kidnapped when she was sixteen. Eleven years later she finally manages to escape. This fictional book is about her return to freedom. It’s about the people who gather around her and help her make the transition, help her get justice, help her start the path of healing. I’ve read the book a couple times and I started wondering what it is about the book that keeps drawing me back. I finally figured it out this morning, while I was watching my boys play on the playground. The book is all about being Seen. It’s about a woman who has undergone trauma and pain and the people who see her and her need and who gather around her to provide her community and friendship and a strong hand to hold on to.

No wonder I keep coming back to this book. The desire to be seen doesn’t seem to go away after we leave childhood. I still have it. I still want to be noticed. I still want someone to have an interest in me and what I like and don’t like. I still want someone to come alongside me and just do life with me. I am happily married and my husband does truly see me. He cares about me and my interests and our life has completely entwined into one single life instead of two separate ones. You would think that was enough “being seen” for anyone. Somehow though, it isn’t. We long, as a couple, as a family, to be seen by others. We long to be part of a larger community. For whatever reason we find it really difficult. I know a lot of it has to do with our culture that is very self-sufficient and private. Everyone has moved off their front porch and now sits in their climate-controlled home being entertained by TV and the internet. While I have a wonderful church family, we go to a commuter church and all the people that I would love to spend more time with all live about a twenty minute drive  or more on the interstate away from me. Honestly, I could sit here and write a giant list of all the reasons it’s difficult to be in community. I’m not going to do that though, because really, I don’t think that’s the root of the problem. I think that I am the root of the problem.

We have had community before. Right here in Tennessee, despite all the obstacles that exist. We have had community. Looking back, I can tell you that the reason we had community was because we opened our home and invited people over. Regularly. Every week. We invited old friends over, and new friends over. We had big birthday parties and invited all our kids’ friends and their families. We reached out to everyone we saw and said, Hey, come on over. We’d love to have you. Come spend time with us. I would call people on the phone and just talk. Catch up.

I’m not sure what happened. Somewhere along the way I got worn out. I got tired. I got depressed. Overwhelmed. And I retreated.  Into my immediate family. Into myself. For a while there I had a hard time even interacting with my immediate family. I am a lot better now. I am embracing being with my husband and children again, but I find myself longing. Longing to be seen, to be known by a wider circle. And I’ve just figured out that in order to do that, I’ve got to start seeing other people. I’ve got to start noticing them. I’ve got to start reaching out again. It’s hard. I’m a little afraid of being burned. Rejection. But I need it. My family needs it. We need community. We need to see others and be seen by others. So, I will pray for the courage to try again. Put myself out there again. Go look for people that I can see.