My Day so far…

5 am My day started when the three year old climbed into my bed. I heard him come in the room and sat up, Watch out for your sister! He was about to come to my side of the bed to climb in, but another child had come in the night and settled with a blanket on the floor by my bed. There was also a child asleep in my armchair. Good grief. The three year old climbed over the sleeping child and cuddled up with me. I dozed a bit, but at the back of my mind was the knowledge that my alarm would be going off soon and I would have to jump out of bed and across the room to turn it off as fast as possible so it didn’t wake up the three sleeping kids. 

7:45am. All the kids (minus two teenagers) are up, have eaten some breakfast and are logging on to their computers for their morning meetings. I sit by the six year old to help her stay focused. The homeschooling 7th grader is doing his own thing and the six year old homeschooler is playing till I have time for him. 

8:30am I leave kids doing school or taking a break, load the cat into a cat carrier and drive her one block to the vet where she will be getting fixed today. I’m supposed to sit in the parking lot and call the phone number of the vet, then they will come out to me when they are ready. Their phone line is busy. It takes me 40 minutes to get hold of the vet. They come get the cat, I have to pick her up this afternoon. 

9:10am I was planning on going home, but now it’s time to swing by the elementary school and pick up free school lunches. I call home and let the now-awake teenagers know what’s going on. 

9:30am Back home. I unload the lunches and then try to help the two six year olds do their school while I am also trying to put the cold food from the lunches into the fridge. I go back and forth. Help one child finish an assignment, send them on a five minute break, turn and help the other child with an assignment, and back and forth we go. Yelling at the three year old every once in a while to go play upstairs where he won’t be bothering people. 

11am, most of the kids are done with their morning assignments. I call the high school to figure out how to get the paperwork we need for my daughters to go take their written driving tests on Friday. The secretary says we need to come in and fill out paperwork. I yell at the teens to go and get in the car so we can get this done. 

11:15 am. I’m sitting in the car waiting for my teenagers inside the highschool. I open up an email from last week where my oldest daughter sent me a form that needed to be filled out for her FAFSA for college. I had forgotten to look at it last week. I find the email, download the link. Take pictures of the form, crop and edit the pictures. Open my adobe app, convert the pictures into pdf and get ready to start filling them out. I read all the questions carefully. Hmmm. I am not needed to fill this out. It doesn’t require my signature. I can just tell my daughter the answers over the phone. Check this off my list. 

11:30 Home again. Everyone is eating lunch. I get a text message. Don’t forget 6 yr old has a meeting at 1:15! Ok. Same child still has 2 assignments to finish, has to do a Spanish class at 12:30 and attend a meeting at 2:15. Got it. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me of all these things. The kids who are finished with their assignments are asking for their 20 minutes reward-computer-time. I set another timer to keep track of their computer play time. 

I still need to fold a week’s worth of laundry, get kids to do their chores, and figure out what I’m making for supper. And pick up the cat. And take kids to youth group tonight. And do advent. And read a book to the poor ignored 3 yr old. And keep the fire going in the fireplace. And let the dogs in and out of the house multiple times. And make sure all the kids actually DID finish all their school work. 

And instead of doing all that, I am decompressing by writing about my day. 

I think my brain is going to explode.

Two more days till Christmas break.

Lots of Stuff Happening

It’s been quite a week. I keep thinking, surely it’s Friday. Nope, still Wednesday. 

Yesterday we went to court and got custody of our foster daughter. 

I just learned today of the death from covid of a cousin in my father’s family. I did not know him, but I have become Facebook friends with his sister over the years, and my heart is grieving for them. His wife is still in the hospital with covid and another of their family just died of covid as well. Please keep them in your prayers. 

I just got news this afternoon that our schools will be going virtual for our final week before Christmas break. I’m very thankful that our elementary school has managed to stay open all semester, but I know this next week will be challenging. 

Two other things happened that I won’t go into, but which also caused me a lot of stress. 

And it’s only Wednesday. 

Today, I have been searching for rest. My brain is at that point where it is now shutting down different areas to conserve energy. My son brought me his math work today to get some help. It was percentages. Seventh grade math. I watched the video to relearn the concept and then struggled through a couple word problems with him. I felt like my brain was moving in slow motion while I tried to apply the formula to each problem, and I finally said, you know what, let’s do this tomorrow. We’re done. 

I had a DCS worker in my home today. She needed a private place to talk to one of the kids, so I showed her into my cluttered, kinda messy bedroom. Here. This is the only private place in the house. I threw my blankets onto my bed, told her, just pretend like this bed is made, and walked out. And I felt no shame or anxiety. Those parts of my brain had apparently already shut down. 

I’ve moved the tv back to the house. (We’ve been tv-free since July.) I wanted to be able to watch Christmas movies, and I was also trying to be kind to myself, anticipating needing some tv-babysitting over the Christmas break. So, today, I let my little boys watch some tv shows while I took a short nap. 

Tonight I am writing and then I’m going to watch silly videos on Facebook and maybe look for a new book to read. But, I’ll probably crash into bed by 9 pm since my inner clock has been waking me up at 5:30 am lately.

Despite all the stress, I am feeling peace. God is on his throne. My problems aren’t too big for him. He has given me small moments of grace, like the purple sunrise I got to snap a pic of this morning. It’s Christmas time, my house is cozy. And, as people always like to point out, my life certainly isn’t boring. 

“Your Name is the Light in the Darkness”

This morning in church we were singing the Paul Baloche song, “Oh Our Lord”, and we sang the line, “Oh Your Name is the Light in the Darkness…” And I suddenly had a flashback of me, in my room, calling out to Jesus for help. On my knees in despair, unable to help myself, crying on the name of the Lord, and it wasn’t just one scene, it was many scenes going back for years and years. All the times I have called on the Name of the Lord for help. Lord, I don’t know what to do! Please help me! Desperate cries. And EVERY SINGLE TIME, he has helped me. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Oh Lord, how Majestic is Your Name! How powerful is your name! You have brought me out of the pit. Your name is a strong tower and the righteous run into it. Your name is the Light in the Darkness.

This weekend has been quite a roller coaster for me as I walked through a crisis with one of my kids. And I had that completely helpless, powerless feeling of, I don’t know what to do or say to help this child. And I love this child and I’ve got to help them. And I don’t know how… Jesus. Help us. Please. And he did. He did. Friday night was the pit of despair, and somehow Saturday and Sunday have been wonderful. 

People hear how many kids I have, and they shake their heads and they say, I don’t know how you do it! 

And I don’t know quite what to say. Cause really, I’m not doing it. It’s all God. But, any pat response I give will just sound light, frivolous. How do I communicate to a stranger that, There is no way I could ever parent this many kids on my own. I couldn’t even parent one kid on my own. This parenting journey involves me on my face regularly before God crying for help, mercy, wisdom, relief. And he is faithful to help. He listens and he answers. 

This past week I have been trying to make a conscientious effort to turn my thoughts to worship instead of worry. This week has given me a lot of things to worry about. We’ve even had some major crises. But, I have had an amazing amount of peace throughout.

You keep him in perfect peace

 whose mind is stayed on you,

 because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

God’s name is trustworthy. 

for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

I’m here to give my testimony, my witness, my story. Jesus has never let me down. Ever. And I’ve walked some crazy paths. I’m walking a crazy path right now as I try to raise this growing family of mine. Every time I have called on Jesus for help, he has helped me. And it’s not because I’m some amazing Saint. I’m as sinful and messed up as the next person. The only difference is God has saved me, and continues to save me. And I continue to call on his name. 

My heart is overflowing today with praise. I’ll leave you the words to this Matt Redmon song, 

Worthy, You are Worthy

Worthy, You are worthy

Much more worthy than I know

I cannot imagine

Just how glorious You are

And I cannot begin to tell

How deep a love You bring

O Lord my ears have heard of You

But now my eyes have seen

Chorus

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy to be praised

Forever and a day

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy to be praised

Forever and a day

Glory, I give glory

To the One who saved my soul

You found me and You freed me

From the shame that was my own

And I cannot begin to tell

How merciful You’ve been

O Lord, my ears had heard of You

But now my eyes have seen

How to Survive Mom Life

It’s been a crazy week. (How many times have I written that?) I told my husband, my actual list of stuff to do has not been that long, but my emotional load has been really heavy. We had a home visit this week from our foster daughter’s caseworker, getting ready for an important upcoming court date next week. Several of my children have had some struggles this week that have weighed on me as I try to help them through. National affairs still have me really tense. 

Yesterday I was feeling a bit shell-shocked. Then a friend posted an old blog post online from DESIRINGGOD.org written by Jen Wilkin. Here’s the link to the original post Women, Trade Self-Worth for Awe and Wonder . The basic premise is that instead of focusing on building up our self-esteem we should be focusing on the greatness of God. As we focus on Him instead of ourselves, we develop a healthy “fear of the Lord”. And a “fear of the Lord”, according to scripture, leads to all the good things we want in life. 

I was thinking about this all day yesterday. And I tried to put it into practice. As I felt myself getting overwhelmed with a situation, and I sent out a silent plea, “What do I do?” I remembered, focus on God, not yourself, and I started thinking about his Majesty, sitting on his throne, his Holiness, his Worthiness. And it helped. My problems shrunk back to a reasonable size when I compared them to the Awesomeness of God. And the heaviness lifted some as I lifted up praises instead of complaints. 

Guys, I’m just going to go on record and tell you that being a mom is tough. And it’s not that my kids are unusual. They are regular people with the regular issues that all people have. It’s just that being human is difficult. And raising humans to adulthood is difficult. 

Last night my husband and I snuck away for a very short date night. We went out to eat, but during the meal we were fielding calls from our teenager who was babysitting and was overwhelmed by two small children fighting over a device that neither of them were supposed to have in the first place. We also were texting with another child, and watching the time because we had to go pick up another child when her work shift ended. 

My husband said, this is just for a season, or something like that. And I said, No, we will be doing this for our entire lives. Our youngest is only three after all. By the time he finally has himself all sorted out we will have grandchildren heading into their teen years. Andy said that would be different. But, I hope that we will be involved enough in our grandchildren’s lives, that we will be able to share in their ups and downs. Anyway, the point being, the stress of being a parent isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay. And that is hard to accept sometimes. 

The other day, I found my mind just cycling through a woe-is-me kind of cycle. It was so Me-Focused. And it was tiresome. And I had this revelation that when my thoughts automatically turn to thinking about God instead of automatically obsessing about myself and my problems, when I can get to that place, my peace will exponentially greater. And I think that’s why Jen Wilkin’s article hit me so deep. Yes. Cultivate a healthy fear of the Lord. Yes. Focus on God’s might instead of my weakness. Yes. Spend my energy praising, instead of complaining. These are the things that will enable me to not only endure, but thrive in this crazy job of being a mom. 

Fall Nights

It’s been a good day. A day to notice little things. 

This evening I heated up some soup for my supper. On Sundays I make a big noontime meal and then the rest of the day everyone fends for themselves (Ok, we help the three year old out, but that’s about it). I try to have sandwich makings or bagels or leftovers or something simple people can snack on. Today I heated up the homemade chicken soup which is more like chicken stew, it’s so thick, and two of my girls joined me. We got out the pretty colored bowls of mismatched shapes and sizes that always cheer me up. Sat at the big wooden table my husband made. 

After eating we moved back to the living room, the center of the home in winter time. My teen was playing the part of dj, selecting music off her playlists for us while she read her book. 

Some kids were gathered around the coffee table, having an interesting debate about how to draw animals. 

Another child was sitting on the couch with the dog, also reading her book. The puppy sleeping on the floor close by. 

Another child crawled into my lap and after a couple minutes of rocking in the old chair, she was out. I sat there holding her, enjoying my domain. 

Right now life feels a little crazy. Holiday plans are getting shifted, age-long traditions are being paused. Our country still doesn’t feel stable. I try to avoid thinking about the outside world as it seems out of control and bewildering. 

And so, it feels like a gift, to be able to just sit and see my immediate space. My home. The solidness of family. To feel the peace around me. Belonging. Purpose. Mission, as we try to raise these kids to adulthood. 

As we head into Thanksgiving this week, I’ll get started with the thankfulness now. I am thankful for fall nights, in my home, with my family. 

“I Need You to Survive”

This past week I was having a bit of a rough time with my foster child. I reached out to her therapist to get some advice/strategies. She said, “If I could recommend anything, try to create opportunities for connection with her.” 

Hmmm. Ok. 

I tried it. More hugs. More positive encouragement. More time talking about her day. 

It really helped. 

No, she didn’t become a perfect angel, but some of the extreme behavior went away. 

I was talking to someone who was going through some bumps in their relationship. Have you tried just talking together about what you’re thinking and feeling? 

The person tried it. Things have improved a lot. 

Connections. We all need them. We forget just how crucial they are to our existence. I can tell you from experience that my mental health crises have been significantly improved by making emotional connections with other people. My marriage always gets a big boost when we take time to be vulnerable with each other and just share our thoughts and fears. My friendships are greatly improved by a night of chatting and catching up. 

In fact, I would say that the polarization in our country could probably be greatly healed if we spent more time focusing on things we have in common instead of our differences, searching for ways to connect, instead of loudly trumpeting our disdain for the other side.

It’s also the same with our walk with God. I start acting out. Feeling fearful. Anxious. Which makes me then act Annoyed. Irritated. Unable to Cope. 

The cure? 

Get re-connected to God. 

Open up my Bible. Turn on the praise music. Spend time in prayer. 

It renews my faith, my hope, my joy. I stop acting out. 

The New Testament has a theme that runs throughout. God has created us to be a part of a family. The Body of Christ. The Church. We all play our part. No lone rangers. Community. 

During this time of unprecedented stress and turmoil in our world, I would say that Establishing Connections, Re-connecting, is really important right now. We need each other. 

This Hezekiah Walker song is running through my head right now.

I NEED YOU TO SURVIVE

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me

We’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied

You are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I need you

You need me

We’re all a part of God’s body

Stand with me agree with me we’re all apart of God’s body

It is his will that every need be supplied you are important to me I need you to survive

You are important to me I need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me

I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you i need you to survive

I pray for you

You pray for me I love you I need you to survive

I won’t harm you with words from my mouth I love you I need you to survive

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: David Frazier / I Need You To Survive Holding

My Sin was Great, Your Love was Greater

I want to start by letting you know that my mammogram went fine, no problems. All is well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. 

This past week has been pretty crazy. My days were a lot more busy than I like. This month seems to be the month of Doctor Appointments. I just looked at my calendar, we have sixteen appointments scheduled for this month. Which is horrible. They are all check ups, dentist appointments, eye appointments etc. Which means that after this month, I shouldn’t have to take anyone anywhere for a long time. Getting it all done in one fell swoop. 

Except that it makes this month a lot more stressful. 

I had the whole having-to-get-a-mammogram thing which was also stressful, though it ended well. We’ve had some changes in our home life with our foster daughter slowly transitioning back to her birth parent. Which is great, but our schedule has gotten a lot more complicated. Even when she goes home completely, I will still be her full-time babysitter, which is a part-time job all by itself. Also a bit stressful.

So, here’s the crazy thing. All this stuff has been going on, and I have been stressed, but it’s not really these things that has been stressing me out. 

I have been mostly stressed about my inability to conquer and be victorious over my weight problems. Sins. Gluttony. Emotional Eating. Using food as the source of my peace and comfort. 

I have been feeling weighed down with condemnation. Surely God is sick and tired of me still struggling in this area. I am a disappointment. A failure. Weak. Not worthy. I’m pretty sure God really doesn’t want to have anything to do with me until I stop being this way. 

Yesterday I kind of hit rock bottom. I wrote a letter to God. 

It was helpful. Helpful for me to be very, very honest. Helpful for me to lay it all down. And then stand back and get some perspective. 

The perspective I got (I believe with the help of the Holy Spirit) was this. Perhaps my bigger sin is thinking that my own works is what saves me. Perhaps my bigger problem is not overcoming in this area, but truly trusting God at his word, that he has truly saved me and given me His Righteousness, and His Righteousness is enough. Maybe Pride is more the issue. Having to realize that Esther, in her own strength, has no power to overcome. She is completely dependent on God and his power to free her from her strongholds. And trying to remember that I am loved. As I am. I don’t have to get perfect first before God decides that he can love me. 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I think I have reached the place where I fully see my helplessness to free myself from sin. And I then also fully see my dependence on God to do the work necessary in my life. And so I cling to his goodness. His mercy. And once again I put my trust in Him. 

I have set aside today to be a day of rest. A day of staying home, not having to run a bunch of errands. A day of minimal housework. 

And I pray that it also is a day of spiritual rest. Sinking into the truth that I am forgiven. That he who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

And this line runs through my head:

My Sin Was Great, Your Love was Greater. (from the song, “What a Beautiful Name”)

“The Peace of Wild Things”

I am sitting by the lake, I’ve been watching my kids swim, but they have now moved on to playing prince and princess and are concocting some elaborate make-believe game. I only have the three youngest with me. My husband and five of our kids left at 4am this morning to go hike a mountain. I don’t expect them home till late tonight. My other two daughters are at their grandparent’s house, in town, a short distance away. It has now been twelve days since we left Knoxville on our vacation, and it has taken about ten of those days for me to finally be able to just relax. We still have a couple more days before we head home and I am thoroughly enjoying the wonderful feeling of doing nothing except some light household chores and watching my children swim in the lake. 

 

It’s been a different kind of vacation. State mandates mean that we can’t go shopping or go out and be around a lot of people. We have seen basically just a few family members and had them do our grocery shopping for us. Aside from a day trip to the beach, we have just stayed in our little cabin and enjoyed the lake and the woods. And it has been wonderful. 

 

My restless husband has been able to help his Uncle and Aunt with a remodel project, my teen girls have hung out with their grandparents and the little ones have practiced their swimming. 

 

My brain has had time to process. Relive, rethink, reassess. And finally, it has just quieted down. I’ve read some good books, done “adult” coloring where there is an inspiring scripture and then a ton of elaborate details to color in. Not something I do often, but I find when I am coloring, the analyzing part of my brain shuts off, and I’m just thinking about staying in the lines, and what color should I use next? It has the same effect for me as playing scales on the piano, or re-reading a favorite book. Occasionally, I will stop coloring and just think about the verse. Meditate. 

 

We don’t get to do this every year. More like every two or three years. But I am glad for these times. 

 

As my brain has quieted and I have rested, I find myself getting ideas again. Getting excited about projects. I am even starting to feel excited about homeschooling some of my kids. I am plotting out schedules, and thinking about books to read and papers we will write and discussions we will have. Spelling charts for the second grader. Homemade calendars.

 

And this is the difference between stressed-out me and healthy me. The ability to dream and be excited about the future. 

 

I remember in the flurry of having lots of babies, I went for years without having any dreams. I was too exhausted. Too overwhelmed. The future was too far away. I was just surviving today. This moment. This minute. This second. 

 

The past months have been that for me. Survival. 

 

And it’s good to feel that quieting down. To feel like the ability to dream is coming back. 

I even told my husband that one day, when all the kids are grown, I want to get a giant fluffy dog. Like a St. Bernard. Or something like that. He immediately pointed out that big dogs are expensive. And I pointed back that all the kids will be gone and I will have money to spend on a dog. 🙂 He’s not over-excited about that dream….yet. I’ve got some time to talk him around. 🙂 

 

Here is a poem I found.

 

“The Peace of Wild Things”

Wendell Berry

Listen

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Today, I am thankful for nature. For God’s creation. For the beauty he created that provides rest to all people, believer or not. It is one of his gifts to humankind. 

 

And I’m thankful for the time he has given me to just rest. 

Goodbye for Now

Yesterday our time with our foster kids came to an end. And it felt like my heart walked out of my door. And I am frozen between conflicting emotions.

 

I love foster care, the chance for families to help children in need. I hate foster care, the need is too deep, too wide to ever possibly completely fill. 

 

I am heartbroken that these kids are gone, they became part of our family. I am relieved that these kids are gone, my family unit is back in place again. 

 

I am devastated that I can no longer pour into these kids. I am relieved that my daily burdens have lessened. 

 

I feel desperate panic that their departure from my home is causing them even more pain. I feel comfort that the struggles that my birth children have been facing are now being relieved. 

 

And I hate the messiness of it all. Why can’t life be a neat printed picture where we carefully color in the lines and everything is orderly and in place? 

 

Why is love so painful? And beautiful? And ugly?

 

I feel like there has been a death in my family. 

 

Goodbye my loves. I will always be here. I pray that there will be a time again when I can be in your lives and let you know just how much I love you. 

 

Running on Empty

You know that phrase, “God never gives you more than you can handle” ? I am going to go on record and say, Bullcrap. That is not true. 

 

Looking back at my life I can see times when all of my reserves have been full. I have had a lot of margin in my life: lots of stored up energy, an overabundance of grace and peace. And then there have been times when I have been completely drained dry, nothing left to give. I would compare those times to kind of like putting $5 of gas in your tank ever day and then having to commute to work and run to the store, and every night, the tank is empty and you wonder if you can make it to the gas station with what you’ve got left the next morning. And you hope you can dig up another $5 for the next day. 

 

Sometimes God throws jobs and challenges at us that are more than we can handle. 

 

Giving birth to ten children within a sixteen year stretch of time, was more than I could handle. Raising ten kids was more than I could handle. Having various homeless families and couples live with us over the years was more than I could handle. Taking in foster kids was more than I could handle. 

 

I find myself in a place now, where the phrase, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” really means something to me. I am in daily need of sustenance. Daily. Yesterday’s bread is gone and used up. I need more today. The phrase “My grace is sufficient for you..” has heavy meaning. Sufficient means enough, adequate. Note, it does not mean overflowing abundance. It’s just the right amount, none left over. Each day I need a new dose of that grace. 

 

I have learned what living on empty means. It’s kind of like doing math all day. Here, you get 10 units this morning. Dealing with that conflict subtracts 3 units, running errands subtracts 2 units, stressing about bills? Minus 2. If we run out of units, then we shut down the day. Turn on the tv, take a short nap, go get pizza for supper…There’s some addition going on as well. Read your Bible in the morning? Add on 3 units. Shut the door to my room and do something peaceful and solitary for fifteen minutes, Plus 2. 

 

And each night, I collapse into bed. Not dead. Haven’t completely failed at life yet. We’re still taking steps forward. The daily bread was provided. The grace proved to be sufficient. 

 

God is still on his throne, and his hand is still upon me. And I will sleep and do it all again tomorrow, leaning  heavily on my God. 

 

And I pray that somehow my life will bring glory to God. That somehow this season of desperation is also a season of great fruit, a season of big growth, a season of close intimacy with God. 

 

And I realize that despite the fact that I am living on the edge, it can still be a place of peace. Today my bible reading was in John 16. Verse 33 stood out ot me,

 

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

 

This old hymn comes to mind…

 

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

Alan Jackson

What a fellowship, what a joy divine

Leaning on the everlasting arms

What a blessedness, what a peace is mine

Leaning on the everlasting arms

 

Leaning, leaning

Safe and secure from all alarms

Leaning, leaning

Leaning on the everlasting arms

 

What have I to dread, what have I to fear

Leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near

Leaning on the everlasting arms

 

Leaning, leaning

Safe and secure from all alarms

Leaning, leaning

Leaning on the everlasting arms