Crazy Brain

I’ve had a strange week. It’s been a good week. Good times with my kids. Lots of basketball games. Everything has been done that needs to be done. And then, it’s been a bad week. 

My brain has decided to pull up every bad memory it can think of from the entire span of my life and just flood my thoughts with them. I’m driving down the road and suddenly I’m remembering that one time in middle school where I was so embarrassed. Or I remember that long forgotten argument with my husband. Or I remember that horrible parenting I did years ago. Or I remember how that one time in college I acted like an idiot. And it just goes on and on. And it’s weird because I don’t feel emotionally connected to those memories. I feel very separate from myself, like I’m watching myself remember all this stuff and I’m making commentary, like, Oh yeah, that happened. Huh. Forgot about that happening. Yup, that was a thing. 

Yesterday I kind of hit bottom with it all. Found myself frozen on the couch again. Not wanting to move to do anything. And I finally kind of talked out loud to the whole situation. Ok, my body and brain seem to need to do this right now. I don’t know why. I’m just going to accept that today is a non-productive day. I’ll do all the “have tos” of the day, but nothing extra. And I did feel better after that. I stopped guilting myself for not being industrious and motivated and just went with it. 

Today I woke up feeling anxious. What kind of day is it going to be? Am I going to be energized, ready to tackle all kinds of extra projects or am I going to have to force myself just to do the basics. I set myself some goals. Must clean my room and the bathroom before lunch. Read my Bible. Sat and wasted time on Facebook. Then I think I had a shove from the Holy Spirit. You’re feeling emotional. Go play Beethoven. Beethoven is a great outlet for emotions. So, I sat down and played through an entire Sonata. And I felt a lot better. 

I decided to make a list of four goals for my year (learning that sonata properly is one of them). And then I went and cleaned my room. And while I sit in this little corner of order, I feel like yes, maybe I can accomplish things and life can be good. 

My kids’ bible verse for the week is Galations 2:20.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I’m human. I’ve collected my share of wounds, just like every other person on the planet. Sometimes I can walk through my days cheerfully, motivated, purposeful. Other days my brain is completely absorbed with processing, mourning, healing. But, over all of this is the fact that I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I’m no longer trapped in my shame and guilt. Jesus’ work on the cross has covered all of that. I’m still here on this sinful earth. I still have my past hanging over my shoulder, but, the life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am no longer alone. I have the Holy Spirit in me, comforting me, guiding me. Giving me wisdom. Loving me. 

I want life to look perfect. Problems and then instant solutions that wrap everything up neatly in a package. I want to wake up every day full of energy, on a mission, ready to change the world. I want my past to be touched with a magic wand so that all the consequences of sins done against me, and sins I have done against others will all disappear into the void, never to be seen or heard of again. I want to be full of faith, never wavering. I want each day to be me accomplishing great things and then ending with peaceful sleep. 

So far, I haven’t gotten any of those things. It seems so sporadic. So messy. One day good, the next day bad. One morning awesome, the afternoon messing everything up. One day I can conquer the world, the next day I can hardly get out of bed. So imperfect. 

But I am taking comfort in the fact that I am in Christ Jesus. He knows what he is doing with my life. And he does things in his own perfect time. His priorities and goals for my life are not the same as mine. And his are better. So me and my cluttered mind will move on with this imperfect day and I will rest in peace, knowing that I’m in Christ, he is in me, and nothing can separate me from that. Not even my crazy brain and fluctuating motivation. 

One of those days, One of those weeks…

Every once in a while I have a surreal moment when I step back and look at my life and I think,

 

WHAT THE CRAP AM I DOING??

 

What on earth made you think you could handle having 10 kids? And now 2 foster kids too??? What made you think you could keep a house this size running smoothly? How on earth did you think you were going to keep up with this much laundry?? And why did you take on this many pets???? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!!!!????

 

And then I go look for some chocolate and let the kids watch tv and bury my head in a book. Cause that kind of reality is sometimes just too much and I have to check out for a while. 

 

 Actually, I’ve kind of been hiding out from reality all week. One of those, Hide My Head in the Sand, and then maybe, when I finally come up for air, my reality will have somehow magically changed, kind of weeks. 

 

Like maybe there will be a housekeeper on my doorstep who says, “I have decided to devote the next several years to being your housekeeper. I will wash all the laundry, do all the dishes, keep all the floors clean, keep the refrigerator stocked, and don’t worry, someone else has volunteered to pay my salary.” 

 

And while we’re dreaming, there could also be another person at the door who says, “Hi! I’ve decided to be your summertime Children’s Activities Coach. I will come up with fun games that not only entertain, but also educate, and get kids fit and active, all at the same time! I will also prepare healthy, nutritious snacks that are only given at well-spaced out times that don’t interfere with meal times. And someone else is going to pay my salary!” 

 

Anyway. I haven’t heard any knocks at the door yet. Just little kids banging on the front door because it’s too heavy for them to open, and they’re supposed to use the side doors, but they don’t, and instead just bang on the front door, waiting for someone to magically appear and open it for them. 

 

I’m sure I will get an infusion of energy soon and get back in the game of life. Just going to hide out a little bit longer…

 

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. 

 

Coronavirus, Kids, and Mental Health

Hey Everyone. I’m wondering how everyone is doing right now with the World Pandemic?  I’ve got friends who have been preparing for this kind of scenario their whole lives, and they are READY! And then I have friends who aren’t taking things too seriously, still doing life as-normal as much as they can. I think I’m probably in the place that most people are. I’m taking it seriously, but I’m really not set up to be SUPER PREPARED. I don’t have the storage space or the extra cash flow to have two months of groceries stored up in my house. I live in the city. I don’t have a wilderness hide-away to retreat to in full-blown quarantine. I’m taking it one day at a time. 

 

So…Kids. Let’s talk kids. 

 

My kids are excited about having a super-long vacation. And mad because we can’t go do all the fun things they normally expect to do on a vacation. Can we go to the Children’s Museum? No. The zoo? No. The library? Well, we can go get a book, but we can’t hang out there. Play at the playground? No, way too many families there. 

 

I’ve seen a lot of posts online about How To Homeschool Your Child During Coronavirus. Homeschooling moms are in their element right now, finally, people willing to listen to their experiences!! I’ve told the kids we are going to start homeschooling next week. I’m starting to feel depressed about this. Our school system has said we are shutting down through April 3rd. I have no hope that they are going to be opening school on April 7th. And that makes me depressed. I stopped homeschooling for a reason. It was One Thing Too Many for me to handle. Right now it still feels like One Thing Too Many for me to handle. But, on the other hand, having a household full of children with no schedule and no real structure is also Too Much To Handle. So, I plan to homeschool just so I can give these kids schedules and structure, so we all don’t go insane. 

 

Here’s the plan. I plan to read devotions and have the younger kids choose a sentence from our Bible story that they can copy neatly and maybe draw a picture. I’ve got a cool history book I like called “Story of the World”. I plan to read this out loud to all the kids and give them paper and pencils to draw a picture of something that stands out to them in what I’m reading.  The older kids can write me a paragraph summary of what we’ve read in history. For math, my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are going to drill times tables, since none of them have their times tables memorized. I’ve got some cool science books that I’m also going to read out loud and let kids draw pictures and write descriptions of what we’ve read. And then, I’ve got a large selection of quality Children’s Literature. Everyone gets to pick a book and read some of it every day. My middle-schoolers and high-schoolers can get online and use resources that their schools are making available. My preschooler and kindergartner can do phonics workbooks that I already own, and I’ll continue to do reading lessons with them. The first grader can read books and all the little ones can do addition flashcards. Then we’ll run around outside and play a lot of games. And watch some of my favorite orchestra pieces on YouTube. And paint pictures. 

 

Or, I’ll lose all patience and tell the kids to turn on the tv and leave me alone. 

 

We’ll see. 

I guess, the point is, either scenario is fine. We all have structure and learn something. Great. We free roam, watch tv and eat snacks all day. Also ok. 

 

There isn’t a script that we are supposed to be following. This is new for all of us. Grace. We just need to practice grace for each other. Sometimes grace might look like stimulating our kid’s brains and giving them lots of interesting things to do. And sometimes grace might look like throwing the kids out in the yard and making them stay outside all day. Or binge watching Marvel Movies. Or getting Happy Meals. Or learning how to bake bread. 

 

Let’s just take it one moment at a time. 

 

One Minute at a Time, Sweet Jesus…

Do any of you know that Gospel song that goes, “One day at a time, Sweet Jesus, that’s all I ask of you…” ? It was very popular where I was growing up in Eastern Kentucky. I know the melody of the song, but that line is the only lyrics I remember. I tend to sing it in my head when I’m feeling overwhelmed. 

 

Right now, where we are in our craziness, I’ve had to change the words to “ One Minute at a time, Sweet Jesus…” Cause, one day is just too much to have to think about. I’m down to one minute increments. 

 

There’s a meme I love: 

adulthood

I am so guilty of this. I’m just waiting for things to slow down a bit…As soon as things calm down a bit… I’m just waiting for this crazy period to be over…

 

I mentioned this to my husband a month ago and he looked at me in disbelief. “Sweetie, this is life. This, what we have right now. It’s never going to slow down. It’s just going to get worse.” 

 

I, of course, didn’t want to hear that. I’m still hanging on to that hope. So far, I have been wrong and my husband has been right. But still, just give it another couple weeks, right? 

 

When I was younger I used to wish that I knew the future. If only I knew… Sometimes I wished that God would send a prophet to me who would give me a very detailed accounting of what my future held. 

 

Yeah. 

 

I don’t think that way anymore. 

 

Now, I know that God doesn’t tell me the future, because if he did, I would have run away in sheer terror. I would have seen the huge load that I am carrying now and figured that there was no way I could do something like that. And, in a sense, I would have been right. Esther from twenty years ago could not have handled what Esther in the present is doing. But, Esther from twenty years ago, also didn’t have that twenty years of growth and strengthening. 

 

There’s a reason we can’t see the future. 

 

Right now, even the future of several hours is overwhelming me. How do I get all this stuff done today? I find that if I start looking forward, even a couple hours, my anxiety levels rise. But, if I can stay in the moment, I’m ok. Right now, all I need to do is sit here with my children while they go to sleep and write my blog. That’s as far as I’m going to think. I can handle that task. After this task I will tackle the next one. One moment at a time. There are a bunch of internet quotes out there about how Tomorrow doesn’t exist, we only have the present. While I hold to the idea that Jesus holds all time in his hands, the Bible has a lot to say about worrying about tomorrow and how pointless that is. Jesus said: 

 

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

 

We are called to stay present. In-the-moment. Don’t worry. Don’t be anxious. 

 

I am taking this to the next level. I’m not going to worry about this afternoon, or tonight. I’m just going to stay in the moment. One minute at a time. I only get overwhelmed when I try to look into the future. I forget that by the time I reach that Future Moment, even if it’s just half a day away, I will be a stronger person, ready to handle those challenges. I am stronger because each moment I choose to remain calm instead of panicking, each moment I choose to do the hard thing instead of the easy thing…I am strengthening my faith, I am proving to myself that Yes, I can do this, and Yes, God is faithful. 

 

And so, as life seems to speed up faster and faster and faster, I will simply take it one step, one minute at a time. 

 

Anger Management

I lost it this morning. 

 

While trying to correct a certain child’s behavior, while I was in the middle of moving a very large pot of boiling hot oatmeal onto our buffet, I managed to spill the entire pot on the floor. No one got burned. My slippers DID get covered in oatmeal. I sent all the hovering children to their bedrooms and told them I would call them when breakfast was ready. I went in my room, put on socks and shoes, announced that I was going to the pharmacy (an errand I had planned on doing after breakfast) and that I would make breakfast when I got home. The fifteen minute errand barely calmed me down, and when I got home and had to start scooping up oatmeal off the floor, I felt my emotions start boiling again. I picked up the worst of the oatmeal and announced that I was going to the store to buy cereal. I didn’t have it in me to cook another breakfast. I went to the store, bought cereal, corn dogs and apples, returned to the house, called everyone to breakfast and announced to my husband that I was going out for an indefinite amount of time. Here’s food to keep you covered while I’m gone. (Just to keep it real, while I didn’t say anything mean to anyone this entire time, I was practically vibrating with pent up frustration.)

 

And then I took myself out for breakfast and escaped to the library. My happy place. 

 

And I started doing research on Anger. It has been the topic of conversation in our house for the last couple days. How do you help children who are dealing with a lot of anger? How do we help kids realize that Anger in itself is not a problem, it’s what you do with it? How do we help kids understand that Big Hard Emotions are not something to run away from or pretend they don’t exist, but we have to find healing ways to handle these emotions, not damaging ways that just make the problem worse? 

 

As I have been brain-storming, trying to help the children in my life with their anger problems, it was a bit of a surprise to find myself completely losing it this morning. Why am I so angry?? 

 

I found a really good article online put out by The Center for Parenting Education, called “Parents Anger Turning Down the Heat in Your Home”. The quote that helped me is this:

 

“Many times what passes for anger is actually another emotion such as sadness, jealousy, hopelessness, the sense of being ignored, overworked, overlooked, disappointed, or exhausted.”

 

Ah. Yes. That makes sense. I am definitely feeling overworked and exhausted. Overwhelmed. In need of a break. 

 

On my way out the door, I told my husband that I just needed some time off. I said I probably hadn’t been anywhere in over six weeks. But, if I think that one through, I honestly can’t remember the last time I just took a day off. It’s got to have been a lot longer than six weeks. 

 

And so, I am taking a Mental Health day. Hang out in a building full of books. Maybe do some shopping. Maybe call some people. Recharge. And maybe, in a roundabout way, this will be helpful to the kids in my life. Look, I get angry and overwhelmed too. Let me demonstrate to you a healthy way of dealing with it. 

 

 

I Can’t Do It

Do you all remember “The Prayer of Jabez” ? It was really popular about 18 years ago. Bruce Wilkinson wrote a book, “The Prayer of Jabez, Breaking Through to the Blessed Life”. It became so popular that someone even gave me a “The Prayer of Jabez for Little Ones” book to read to my little kids.

I always had a problem with The Prayer of Jabez. The prayer is supposed to be understood in 4 parts. The first part Jabez asks God to bless him. The next part he asks God to increase his territory, the third part he prays God will be with him, and the fourth part he asks God to keep him from harm. That is my very simplistic explanation. While I’m sure that this prayer and the book about it has been a blessing to people, I would always get hung up on the “Increase my territory” part. (Which I interpret to mean, increase my circle of influence.) No. Please don’t increase my territory. My territory is quite large enough thank you. In fact my territory feels so large right now that I actually feel a bit like I’m drowning. In fact, I’m a little overwhelmed that there are people walking around who actually feel like rising to the challenge to ask God to increase their territory. It makes me feel like a loser, an underachiever.

Along the same line, there’s another story in the Bible that Jesus tells. A parable about the “talents” (a measurement of money). So, a man goes on a journey and he entrusts his property to his servants. He gives each servant the number of talents that he thinks they can handle. One gets 5 talents, another gets 2 talents, another gets one talent. Each servant takes the money, invests it, and manages to double the amount, but the servant with one talent goes and hides his talent in the ground and does nothing with it. The master returns, the good servants show him how they’ve increased his money, he’s happy and he says, “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” Except for the servant with one talent who gets punished for not even trying to do a little with the talent. This story also disturbs me. If I’m going to be honest, I would kind of rank myself as a two talent kind of person. I’m not going to hide my talent, I really do want to achieve something, but I’m not overly ambitious. I am often not a very hard worker. I don’t see myself as one of those super-successful people who just push themselves really hard until they become CEO of the company. That’s not me. If I were to join the business world I would find a low-stress job that kept me happy enough and I would call it good.

Sometimes…Just sometimes…I kind of feel like God made a mistake and slipped a couple extra talents to the low-talent girl.  I feel like saying, Hey, you made a mistake, here, you can have those talents back. I’m good with just one or two.

Here’s what I mean. I feel like God went ahead and increased my territory, loaded on the talents, when I wasn’t asking for him to do it. I want to stick with my tiny circle of influence. I want to just a keep a talent or two to fool around with, and maybe just coast my way on through life. Of course, some of you may be scratching your head and saying, Umm Esther, I think that’s what you have already. And yes. It’s true. I’m not leading any big ministries. I’m not a public figure. I don’t have any titles attached to my name. Haven’t written any books. Lead any online groups. But here’s the thing. I have TEN children. 10. Ten souls that have been entrusted into my care. Ten people who will one day look back at their childhood and either bless me, curse me, or find me so inconsequential that they won’t even think about me. Whether I like it or not, what I do with my kids is going to have a life-long influence on them. Either an influence that will bless them throughout their life, or an influence that they will struggle to heal from for the rest of their lives. Or, more realistically, maybe a mix of both.  I feel like God said, hey, I know you just wanted to take care of your own yard, but instead I’m going to put you in charge of Knox County. Or, I know you just wanted one or two talents, but here, I’m going to give you ten instead.

Overwhelming. Sometimes to the point of panicking. Sometimes I want to just hide from the responsibility. I can’t do it. Doesn’t God understand that I’m not “That Person”? “That Person” is the lady I know who writes out thirty minute incremental schedules for her entire large family and then makes sure that everyone follows the schedule. I’m standing here scratching my head, saying, hmm, what should I do today? “That Person” is the lady I know who plans out her entire menu a month in advance, pre-cooks everything over one weekend, freezes her meals, and feeds her large family quickly, efficiently, and with a super-small budget. And I’m standing in front of the fridge at 6 o’clock at night, still not sure what to make for supper, and often just running down to Little Caesars to get cheap pizza instead. “That Person” is the one who has her children reading through the entire Bible every year, memorizing whole books of the Bible at the age of five and leading hour-long sessions of praise and worship and intercession with her children while they use their interactive-map to pray for unreached people groups. I’m over here, bribing my children with candy to memorize verses, stopping in the middle of my prayers to yell at the 4 year old to be quiet and sit still, having family devotions when I can make it happen, but certainly not on a strict schedule. I am not “That Person”. Doesn’t God understand this? How on earth am I going to not majorly fail at this undertaking called Motherhood???

There’s one more verse in the Bible I guess we should talk about. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul is talking about a “thorn in the flesh” that he was asking God to remove from him. God didn’t remove the thorn and instead said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Over the years, that verse has ministered to me in many situations. I am the definition of weak. Not overly disciplined. Not a poster-child of anything. And yet, somehow, God’s power is made perfect in me. When things happen in my life that are good, when things amazingly turn out right, that was not me. That was God’s power being made perfect in my weakness. Let Him get all the glory. Let people scratch their heads in amazement and say, well, the Esther I know isn’t capable of pulling off those results, that HAD to be God.

Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is the other verse I cling to. When I was giving birth to my 9th child, it was time to push and he got stuck. I was pushing and nothing was happening. This went on for a while and the doctor was starting to get concerned, especially since my typical deliveries usually saw me pushing only a couple times before the baby came. I started to panic. What if they decided that I couldn’t deliver and we ended up with a C-section, what if there was something wrong? By this time I was deep in that place where the world faded out and it was just me and my body, trying to conquer this Herculean Feat. That verse popped into my mind. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It became my mantra. In my head I repeated it over and over again as I pushed again. And this time something shifted, the baby started moving again and soon he was safely delivered. Tears of relief. Thank you God, thank you. Your strength, not mine.

Yes. I will remind myself of this again. I am weak, but because of it, I’m a perfect vessel to bring glory to God. God has overwhelmed me with the responsibility that he has placed on my shoulders. But he’s also promised to be with me, to strengthen me.

Listen. If you ever see something admirable about me, you can just start giving praise to God, because I can’t think of anything good I’ve ever done in my own strength. I will continue to stagger along with my over-large territory, my heavy burden of talents, and I will continue to remind God that I am weak, I can’t do it. And he will continue to remind me that it’s His Power, His Strength that’s going to make it happen. May my weak, inadequate life bring Glory to God.