Reckless Love

It’s been a rough week. Not so much that my circumstances suddenly became horrible, rather that my ability to handle my everyday circumstances seemed to be at a low ebb. A big part of that has been because I’ve been making some changes, and change is hard. I talked about that in the previous blog. But, I wanted to take a little time, on this Saturday evening, to share a bit of how God has been grace-filled to me. 

 

On Wednesday, an old acquaintance (friend? Casual Friend? Really nice person that I have always liked, but never had a lot of conversations with?) messaged me on FB and told me she wanted to drop off some crafts at my house. Well…Ok…Wow. That would be awesome! Thank you very much! She dropped by a little later and carried in 3 very large bags and a large box, full of VBS-worthy crafts. All organized and ready to go.  Wow! Thank you so much! 

 

On that same day I had a really rough spot with one of the fosters and not one, but TWO different adults who are part of this child’s life were able to come to the house and speak to him and help him and all of us get over a rather rough patch. 

 

And then, on another day, another acquaintance (friend? Casual friend? Really nice person who works in our church’s Children’s Ministry with my kids, but who I only speak occasionally with…) messaged me and said that she had randomly thought of me, and wanted to offer to babysit my kids for free so I could get a break. Well…Ok…Wow! Yes! Please come! Thank you very much! And then she came Friday and babysat, and also brought her Mom with her (who is certifiably one of my good friends), so I was able to chat with her a bit before I took off. 

 

I was mentioning all these things to my husband, and he commented, that’s an awful lot of random people just “happening to think about you”. And I paused. You’re right. And I gulped, cause I realized that God had been talking about me. To other people. Calling in favors. Pulling some strings. Making elaborate arrangements to bless me. 

 

And that makes me tear up, cause really, I don’t feel worthy of that kind of Supernatural help. In fact, this week, I’ve felt a lot like a failure. I haven’t been as nice as I could have been. I haven’t been as patient as I know how to be. I have not been the picture of grace and wisdom, carefully and cheerfully guiding my home. No, more like a grumpy pit bull, snarling a bit, forgetting important things, not finishing tasks, buying a lot of takeout, letting the kids watch too much tv. Crashing along, trying to be productive, but not really succeeding. 

 

And in the midst of all that mess, God starts sending me gifts. The gift of his people’s generosity. 

 

And my old thought patterns rear their head. What? I’m being bad. That means you should be disciplining me, punishing me, at the very least, ignoring me. But instead, he lavishes love and grace on me. 

 

These are the lyrics to the chorus of the song Reckless Love, by Songwriters: Caleb Culver / Cory Asbury / Ran Jackson

 

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

 

And that is what is running through my head, as I continue to stumble my way through life, covered by His Grace. 

I Hate Change

Hey Internet World. Good morning from East Tennessee. It’s a cool, grey day over here right now. I took a brisk twenty minute walk around the neighborhood this morning while my kids were watching tv shows. I put the older kids in charge. Then, when I was one street over from my house, on my homestretch, I heard a child yelling MOM!!!!! It was coming from a distance and I just knew, with all certainty, that it was one of my children. Good grief. I started walking faster. Please let them stop. It was not a cry for help or a cry of distress. Just a, hey, I want Mom back, I know she’s out there somewhere, I guess I’ll call for her. There was silence and I started to hope, maybe it really wasn’t one of my kids, maybe I’m just being paranoid, after all, there are a lot of kids in this neighborhood. I rounded the corner, I had two options, take the shorter way through the alley, or get a little more distance by going all the way around the block. I heard the cry again….MOM!!!!! I took the alley. Heart rate was definitely up now. Finally, the house was in view. I saw the small child sticking her head out the side door, mouth opening to yell again. I called her name and proceeded to lecture her about yelling out the door and how the whole neighborhood could hear her. Of course, the whole neighborhood could probably hear me lecturing her as well. 

 

This of course highlights one of my difficulties I’ve encountered this week as I’ve tried to stick to my new challenge of walking 10,000 steps a day. How do I get in all my walking time? On rainy days I have been going on my elliptical which is fine, but I do prefer to be outside walking. I tried taking one of my more athletic kids on a one hour walk with me, and by the end she was complaining of sore feet. Part of walking is to help de-stress, and walking with a bunch of children who are whining about sore feet and wanting to know when we can go home is not de-stressing. I am also struggling through depression and anxiety at the moment, and part of being in that mindset is that I have an insatiable desire to be alone. I crave solitude. Taking walks by myself is a really nice break for me. 

 

This past weekend was great. My husband was home in the mornings and I could go on a long walk each morning. And then we also went to different places where I was able to walk during the day as well. The weekdays have been more of a challenge. Throw into that the fact that we are trying to transition into a summer routine, and needless to say, I’ve been a bit out of sorts this week. 

 

I had made the observation a while ago that my foster kids did not handle change well. Even if it was a positive change. Disruptions to the routine always result in disruptions to their behavior. I had noticed this and I try to keep it in mind when dealing with different behaviors. But, I must admit, I was a bit condescending about it in my mind. Poor kids, can’t handle change. So weird. 

 

Then this week, as I struggled through changing to a new routine with the kids and have struggled with setting up some healthier habits for myself, I had the big epiphany that I actually don’t handle change well either. Sure, I don’t scream or act out in noticeably bad ways, but I sure do get grumpy, and snappy, and short-tempered and irritable.

 

It’s interesting that God made our world as a world of change. In the Bible, the book of Eccliastes has a beautiful chapter about seasons.

 

Eccliastes 3: 1-11b  

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time…

 

If we are being honest, when we think about our dream life, our Happily Ever After, it does not involve a lot of change happening. We don’t factor in family members dying. We don’t factor in job changes. We don’t factor in relationships changing and sometimes fading away. We tend to want to take a snapshot of our Best Day and then just stay right there. 

 

I’ll admit, I have not handled this whole Word-Wide Pandemic thing nearly as well as I thought I should. And a big part of that was because it was too much change all at once. And apparently, I don’t like change. 

 

I think one of the rudest awakenings I’ve had as a Christian Adult, was having to face the fact that God had no intention of removing all my problems and making my life easy. As I stood there pointing at the problem, demanding that God make it go away, he simply linked arms with me, and said, here, lets’ walk through this together. By the time you get to the other side, you’ll have become a little bit more like me. 

 

God made our world to be a world of change, and that change forces us to change as well. If we are hanging onto Jesus, those changes are going to be for the better. 

 

So, I will attempt to embrace the idea that change is actually good, not something to avoid, and I will hope that I come out on the other side a little bit stronger, a little bit more patient, a little bit more confident that God’s got me, no matter what. 

The Power of a $6 Pedometer

A couple days ago I was sitting with my husband and he asked, “What’s got you down? ….I mean, besides everything else that’s going on?” And I had to laugh. “Uh, Everything that’s going on is what’s got me down.” Let’s recap…Worldwide Epidemic, quarantine, economic shutdown, school closures, church closures, park closures, library closures, Kids Museum closures, play spaces closures, our community park closure. And then there are all the consequences from that…homeschooling a houseful of children, limited meetings with friends, nowhere to take the kids to just get out of the house. Plus some pretty high-stress situations we’ve had with our foster kids…Yeah, it’s all getting me down. And then, just to make things a little happier, my brain has decided to remind me that I’m overweight and out-of-shape, just so I can have one more thing to be down about. 

 

So, this was my state of mind. Looking ahead to the summer, trying to figure out what on earth I’m going to do with the kids all summer if all the playgrounds and splash pads and libraries and kid’s museums and public play spaces are all closed? And no camps this year. 

 

It kind of feels like I’m complaining, except that I think it’s a legitimate problem. If you are someone who has always fully utilized all the public parks and libraries and play spaces and then they are gone, what do you do? 

 

Well, in all of that turmoil, I got an idea. I’m going to go ahead and give God thanks, because I wouldn’t have thought of it on my own. A friend of mine has been running and she’s been making monthly goals of how many miles she wants to run a month. Very cool. I, however, am not a runner, but I do love to walk. Which got me thinking about setting goals for walking, which got me thinking about pedometers, which got me online researching how many steps are good to take in a day, and the end result was, I have decided to set myself the goal of taking 10,000 steps a day. 

 

Yesterday I went out to Walmart in the morning and got myself a cheap $6 pedometer. Then I bought a no-pull harness for my dog, who has never done well on a leash, and got some new insoles for my tennis shoes. All set. 

 

Yesterday I managed to walk 11,526 steps. Yay me! 

 

I went on my elliptical twice, reading my book on my kindle app while I walked. Then we got the dog all harnessed up, the kids all got on their bikes, and we took a long walk around the neighborhood. It was fun. The dog loved it and the harness worked really well for him. (We have a large yard that he runs around in, but he recently got fixed and has already started packing on extra weight, he needs more exercise, plus our neighborhood is the type that I feel better going on a solo walk if I have a big dog with me, win-win for both of us.)

 

This morning I got up early and one of my daughters and the dog and I took a long, hour-long walk, which knocked out half of my needed steps for the day. 

 

Here’s the thing. Setting that one goal really didn’t solve all my other problems. But it gave me an injection of hope. Something to work towards. And it’s also got me thinking of how to incorporate walks into each of our days. Start taking the kids around to different places where they can ride their bikes or their scooters. It got me thinking about how Andy and I could walk on our date nights, there are a lot of places within walking distance of our house we could go to. And while all the other problems about homeschooling and summer schedules, and worries about the world, they’re still here, I’m finding myself a little more energized to tackle these things. 

 

Two days ago I was feeling hopeless, today I’m feeling energized. I will never cease to be amazed how Every Single Time I think I have reached rock bottom, God comes and blows a fresh breeze in my face, revives me, and sets me back on the path with a pat on the back. And he uses the craziest things to do it. A $6 pedometer. Who knew that’s what I needed? 

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

 

To all those moms who have suddenly become homeschooling moms against your wishes and feel overwhelmed and frustrated…Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To all those moms who have been homeschooling all along but have suddenly lost all their support systems, friends, playgrounds, libraries, co-ops, extra-curricular classes…Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To the moms whose children are long grown and have left the nest, off building their own grown-up lives…Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To the Grandmas who have not only launched their own children but are now involved in the next generation of children…Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To the moms whose children are not here, lost in miscarriage or premature death…Happy Mother’s Day. 

 

To the moms who became mothers through a different route and who love their children fiercely, Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To the women who say they aren’t a mom, but whose lives have heavily influenced a child, Happy Mother’s Day. 

 

To the Brand New Mom who feels like she is drowning in sleepless nights and never-ending feedings…hang in there, things will change…Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To the moms who are struggling with their teenagers, despairing of ever having a good relationship with your child…I’m praying for you…Happy Mother’s Day. 

 

To the moms who messed up and are now trying to make things right…keep trying…every relationship is worth mending…Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To the mom who loves her children with all her heart, but feels like she has lost track of who she is as a person…you’re still there and you’re worth finding again…Happy Mother’s Day.

 

To the mom who is watching their child face health battles…our hearts are breaking with yours…Happy Mother’s day. 

 

And to my Mom, thank you for loving me. You’re the best. I wish you Happiness and Joy and Peace. 

These are a few of my favorite things…

I have decided that in consideration of my current mood and state of mind, this post needs to be devoted to things that I am thankful for. 

 

The other day, my husband stopped at the store before coming home from work to get some cheese that I needed for our meal. When he got home, he walked in the room and handed me a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates, and a loaf of French baguette.  He was pulling out all the stops, in an attempt to comfort me after the very trying day I had been reporting to him, via text, throughout the day. 

 

These tangible comforts were much appreciated. I arranged the flowers in a pretty bowl and put them on my desk and they continue to be a bright spot for me. 

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Another bright spot is that my three year old is finally potty training. Yay! It was self-directed, which always seems to work best. He took off his diaper and announced to me that he didn’t need it any more. (I have not found this diaper yet. I have no idea where he put it, it has not showed up in our yard or in the house, I’m hoping he magically just decided to throw it in the trash.)  I jumped on the opportunity and put him on the potty, he went, and we have been on the potty training wagon since. He’s actually doing pretty good. Not too many accidents. Here he is, being snuggled by a big sissy. 

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Let’s see…we got bikes for the kids and have spent several evenings across the street in the bank parking lot that is right in front of our house, watching the kids ride. A couple neighborhood kids have joined in the fun. We adults sit right in the entryway to the parking lot so that any car that wants to enter to go to the ATM machine has to wait for us to move, and during that time we can yell for all the kids to get out of the way. (We do this in the evening when the bank is closed and the traffic into the parking lot is very low, one or two cars max.) 

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I’ve been paying attention to how green Tennessee is. It’s a special, light green that is very soothing and comforting. I am constantly amazed at how much color in nature can cheer me up. I am forever thankful that God decided to settle us in Eastern Tennessee. Life is good when you can just look outside and see green grass and trees. I took this picture on a rainy afternoon. 

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Hmm.. I continue to take pleasure in sitting down at my piano and playing favorite songs. It is also fun to hear my kids pecking away, creating their own songs, trying to work out their favorite melodies. Music is a gift, and this old piano, complete with dents and scratches is the perfect addition to our family. Kind of like an overgrown dog who patiently lets the toddlers climb on his back and pull his ears. 

20200423_192956

 

So…that’s what I’m doing today. Trying to purposely look around and find things to be thankful for. It’s a helpful way to keep yourself from falling into the Pits of Despair or some place similar. If you are looking for something  to do today, I recommend walking around taking pictures of things that make you happy. It’s a good exercise. 

 

Will You Mourn With Me?

Emotions. Emotions are a difficult thing. In fact, sometimes they are an overwhelming and scary thing. When we are shaking with rage, shivering with fear, gasping with sorrow, all we want is to be calm. We want the storm to be over. We want to be safely on the other side. In those moments of intensity, emotions are the enemy that we must squash as quickly as possible. 

 

We say words like, it’s ok, it’s going to be alright, just calm down now, settle down… As the person who seeks to comfort, we seem to be allies with the notion that emotions are bad and must be disposed of as soon as possible. 

 

And so, from a young age, we start pushing those emotions down. No, I need to stop crying. I need to calm down. I need to get over this. I need to distract myself. Just don’t think about it. I’ll be over this soon. 

 

And right now, as I try to help one of the kids in my care process some real genuine pain and loss and confusion and anger, I find myself assuring him that these emotions are ok. It’s ok to be angry. You have permission to feel all these things. And I wonder, how do I teach myself this as well? How do I model this behavior when I still haven’t figured it out? 

 

I run from intense emotions. Flee. Stuff it down. Take deep breaths, blow it away. How do I undo all these habits and patterns that have shaped my life? How do I just sit and mourn? How do I allow myself to feel the anger that I have every right to? How do I just permit the sadness to wash over me? 

 

Emotions are scary. 

 

I wonder why? 

 

I think about this child in my care and wonder, what is best for him? His emotions are so overwhelming that he is struggling to function. And if I’m being completely honest, I would just like his emotions to go away. They are really messy. They are really hard to deal with. They make life complicated. 

 

In the old days, when people died, people would gather, have a time of public mourning, weeping, remembering. They would change their clothes to reflect their grief. 

 

If only we had such rituals in place to deal with other forms of grief. 

 

When I miscarried the first time, I think I would have taken great comfort to put on black clothing for a period of time. To cover my face with a black veil. To have a monument that I could visit and cover with flowers. 

 

We need these visual rituals. No. Some of the things we are mourning and grieving aren’t physical deaths. Maybe it’s a separation, maybe it is a dissolving of something that was good. Maybe it’s simply loss of innocence. 

 

I think it  would help to put on mourning clothes, pour ashes over my head, tear my clothing, hire a group of professional mourners. It would signal to the world, I am in pain. I need time to deal with this. I’m not ok. I need you to be sad with me. I need you to join me in this pain instead of trying to pull me out of it. I need you to be angry with me over an injustice served, over a wounding that was given. 

 

What we need is to be able to sit and stay with our hardest emotions, and have people come and join us. 

 

And all of this reflection tells me what I must do to help this child. I must be angry with him. I must be sad with him. I must join him. And maybe, maybe we will heal together. 

 

Corona-schooling

You all might be wondering how school is going in my household of 10 students in this time of pandemic and school closures. Well, it’s interesting.

 

We’ve got all kinds of personalities going on here. The highschooler symbolically slammed her books shut and declared the year over. Even though the school has made review work available for her. I can see her point of view. They aren’t offering any new material and, in typical teenager short-sightedness, she can see no reason to review for classes that she’s just going to be handed a grade for and to which she won’t be returning. 

 

The 8th grader, the one who marches to the beat of a different drum, is attacking Khan Academy, trying to teach herself the rest of her Algebra 1 class so that she’ll be prepared for the next math class she takes in High School. She’s also looking up the state standards that weren’t covered because of school closure and researching them, trying to teach them to herself. (I told my husband this, and he expressed my thoughts, “Who does that??”) 

 

The 6th, 5th, 4th, (2) 3rdgraders, 1st grader, kindergartner, and preschooler are all under my jurisdiction. I set up a chart. Every day they have to watch two of the school videos that are available on our School District’s website, read a book for 30 mins, read one chapter of the Bible (We’re all reading Mark), and practice 1 of their times tables. If they do all of that, they can play MINECRAFT for 30 mins. Since we have never had any kind of video/online/computer games available, this has been a big motivator. I’ve got kids crashing into my room at 7:30am, when I am only slightly awake and demanding that I help them get started on school. Minecraft is apparently a powerful tool. (In the afternoons, if they clean their zone, their bedrooms, and deep clean one item on my list, they get another 30 mins. My house is looking a lot cleaner!)

 

Despite how organized this all sounds, it gets pretty chaotic. 

 

So, today I was sitting on the end of my bed (my bedroom has somehow become the school room, not sure why) helping my preschooler do his reading lesson. (I’ve got the preschooler and kindergartner doing my old homeschool curriculum for kindergarten since they need one-on-one help.) He had a short little paragraph to read and I was pointing, one word a time as he made his way through the story, stopping to ask questions after each sentence. He was reading pretty slowly, so when the nine year old popped in front of me and told me she was ready to go over her times table with me, I nodded in agreement. Sure I can listen to two kids at the same time. 

 

So, here I am, pointing at the book, Here David, what’s this word…D..O…G.. Dog, that’s right, keep going..Ok, Nomi, 7×9…No, not 62, you’re really close….yes 63. So, David, what is the dog doing? Uh huh. 7×2. Yep. 14, 7×8? Here David, you’re reading right here. Not, BBB, it’s DDDD. Ok. That’s right, DOT good job! No, 7×8 is not 63, that’s what 7×9 is. No, not 49. No. Not 52. Right here David, stop getting distracted, what’s this word? No, Nomi, it’s not 54. If 7×9 is 63 what can you do to figure out 7×8!!! That’s right, start counting backwards. Yes.56. Ok David, so The Dog did not eat a fish…What do you think he’s going to eat? Let’s keep reading and find out! YES! 56!! That is correct! 7×3? Yep, you got it, 7×7? No, not 62. THINK!! 

(Just then, the other nine year old approaches and says he’s ready for me to listen to him read, a practice I’ve had to undertake to help keep him honest.) Not now sweetie, I can’t listen to you right now. You’ll have to wait. 7×7. 49 You got it. Here David, L…O…G… Log. Yes! The dog did not eat a log! Good job. No, I’ve already told you I can’t listen to you read, dear nine year old, go do something else!! 

 

ACCK!! (At this point the 3 year old did a somersault on the bed and hit me square in the back.) I turn around. Both the three and six year olds have burrowed under my covers and are proceeding to hit both me and David in the back (remember, we’re sitting on the end of the bed) and are stripping my bed of all it’s covers. STOP STOP STOP!! OFF MY BED!!! GO PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE!!!!

 

7×4. Yes. 28, 7×6.. David, keep reading! What did the dog eat?? No, 7×6 is not 49, that’s 7×7. Will the dog eat a pot of tar? What do you think? Yeah, I think so too. Let’s keep reading and see what he eats…7×5. No. I didn’t already ask you this. And even if I did, just answer it and keep moving.  Oh look David, the sentence says, “the dog will eat his car..” huh. Well, that’s pretty silly. I uncover the picture that is supposed to stay hidden till the end of the story. Sure enough, there is a dog eating a car. Weird. David starts laughing hysterically. Apparently this reading book understood it’s target audience. 7×6..Oh, yeah, you’re right. I already did that. Ok quick, lets go over the ones you didn’t know. David, you’re done reading. Other nine year old, I’m ready to hear you read! 

 

And that is a glimpse into what corona-schooling a whole bunch of kids at the same time kind of looks like. At least over at my house.