Fat Fridays: A Day Late

Good morning. I am late. I contemplated skipping and just waiting a week, but it seems more appropriate to write a day late. 

Yesterday my “Give a Damn” broke. It does that every once in a while. I’ve had a hard week. Last Saturday we drove twenty-four hours straight with nine children in the car, driving through the night, to get home from our vacation. My husband did most of the driving but I did Pennsylvania, from 2am to 6am and I did a four hour stretch of Virginia. The kids were amazing. The biggest problem was the three youngest being TOO cheerful and rambunctious as they played in the row right behind our seats. It was while we were driving that my mom called and let me know that she and my dad were sick with covid and headed to the ER. And then this week has been the uncertainty of how my dad was going to pull through. And unpacking. And doing all the Back-To-School shopping, and trying to help my mom long-distance as she recovered at home, and catching up all the errands that stack up when you’ve been gone for a while. 

I started off the week healthy. Went grocery shopping and stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit. And then, on Tuesday I went to the dentist to have my last appointment to get a crown on my tooth. And then the dentist had an “oops” moment and my tooth got messed up and they ended up having to pull the tooth. And then my jaw got infected and I’ve been in pain all week and couldn’t eat all the fresh veggies cause my mouth hurt. 

Anyway. This Friday I shut down. I tried. I made an effort. I put on exercise clothes. I tried to tackle the giant list of things that needed to be done, but my brain wouldn’t focus. I would decide, Ok, I’m going to go take a walk. Then I would think, well, maybe I should get the kids settled doing this activity first. Or maybe I should go run those errands first. Or maybe we should clean the house first. And I completely froze. Didn’t know what to do. I finally left the house, ran the errands, and then sat in a chair all day, playing word games in an attempt to not have to think about my life. 

I did not exercise. I did not eat vegetables. I did not accomplish much. And I didn’t care. 

So, here we are, the next day. I’m feeling a little more rested. And I’m not feeling guilty. I’m not superwoman. This is something I have to tell myself often. I actually can’t do everything (though in my last Friday post, I did feel like I could!). And sometimes my body and brain just need to check out for a while. And it’s ok. Today is a new day. I’ll try again to make good choices for food. I’ll try to get moving again. The important thing is to keep trying. 

A Time for Quiet

We are on vacation right now. Taking part in a family reunion. Back to the stomping grounds of my husband’s youth. It’s a place that feels like home. Lakes, fields, forests. Small towns. Vast northern skies. It’s been almost twenty-two years since our honeymoon when my husband first brought me to Maine. And since then we’ve made regular pilgrimages. I am very familiar with the over-eleven-hundred-mile drive. 

For me, it’s a place where I can get steeped in nature. Forget about city traffic, polution, people everywhere you turn. It’s a place where you just sit and stare at the water. Watch for loons. See an eagle every once in a while. Laugh at the ducks. Take long walks down dirt roads. 

It’s a place where I can slow down my heartbeat. Slow down my frantic thoughts. Slow down the rhythm of our family. Life simplifies to the lowest common denominator. Play, eat, sleep. 

This morning I sat on the porch, watching my kids swim, painting my toenails. After a long time, I finished. Beautiful! I did it! (This is an accomplishment for me to not get nail polish all over the place.) Then my four year old wanted to sit with me and he stepped on my foot. Back to square one. But it’s ok. I’ve got time to fix it. Nothing else is pressing in. 

The kids are reconnecting with cousins. Aunts and Uncles catching up on each other’s news. We break bread together. Pictures are taken. 

I think about the fact that years ago, a family this spread out would never have seen each other again. The distance too far, the cost too high. Now we can jump in our cars, book airline tickets. Set a date. Here we all are. What an amazing time we live in. 

I have hopes for my time here. I hope I can disconnect from the world that is full of human drama and stress. Connect with an older world. The one that is tied to the changing of the seasons, the moving of the sun across the sky. The activity of the clouds, will it rain or not? Tune my ears into the sound of the wind in the trees, the calls of the birds. Smell the damp forest floor. Feel the rain misting on my face. 

I am thankful. Thankful for my husband’s family that has claimed me as one of their own. Thankful for the heritage of this place that we can pass down to our children. Thankful that God provided a way for us to get here. Thankful for rest. 

This is me and my husband, after our wedding, about to get in the car and drive cross-country to Maine for the first time. I had no idea that this was going to become a major theme in our lives. But, I’m really glad that’s the way it’s turned out. 

Weary

My head is fuzzy

Thoughts flit around and disappear

My shoulders, so tired

The world weighs too much

I try to move and bustle around

My legs are heavy

So tired.

Just keep moving, Just keep moving

I whisper to myself

The daily tasks stack up around me

Waiting.

Voices call my name

Everybody needs me.

How much longer? 

How much longer can I just keep moving?

Rest

My soul cries for rest.

God help me please.

And I wait

And I trust

And I just keep moving

Confident Help is on the way. 

Breathe

Sometimes I am shockingly disconnected to my body and what it’s going through. And then my body responds to a situation in a very normal physical way, and I’m like, What’s going on?? What is wrong with you?? 

The past two days I have been so tired, any time I sit down, I start falling asleep.

Crazy.

Am I sick? Vitamin deficient? Coming down with something? 

And then I stop and try to assess the situation.

Ok. I had to surrender my dog to a shelter on Monday. On Monday I also started a new diet/exercise program that I am sure is a shock to my system. On Tuesday I had an important meeting at the kid’s school, had to put myself forward and stand in the gap for a child that needs some special help. Everyone was nice, but any time I have to speak my mind in front of strangers, I get stressed. Last week my teenager was walking home from school and shooting broke out, half a block behind her. Now I am feeling hyper-vigilant as I listen to all the sirens throughout the day. It’s not been a tranquil month for relationships. In short, while I have decided to pump up on vitamins, stay hydrated, etc. I am also just trying to be kind to myself and acknowledge that maybe my body is trying to tell me something. 

Like,

You are Tired. 

The following are the words to the final chorus in the song  Breathe put out by Jonny Diaz.

When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just

Breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to take it in, fill your lungs

The peace of God that overcomes

Just breathe (just breathe)

let your weary spirit rest

Lay down what’s good and find what’s best

Just breathe (just breathe)

Just breathe, just breathe

Come and rest at my feet

And be, just be

Chaos calls but all you really need

Is to just breathe

Just breathe

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Jonathan Smith / Jonny Diaz / Tony Wood

Breathe lyrics © Songtrust Ave

And that’s where I’m at right now. Needing to acknowledge my body’s efforts to slow me down. Needing to rest. I’m not up for solving any of life’s mysteries or thinking really deeply, or being anything amazing. I just need to rest at Jesus’ feet and breathe for a while. 

Seeking Emmanuel in the Crazy

We had an amazing Christmas service with our church today. The story of Jesus, starting with creation, told throughout the earth’s history, ending with his resurrection, accompanied by beautiful music. During the service my shoulders lifted from stress that had been weighing them down. My anxious thoughts calmed and focused on this story that never grows old. 

I needed that church service to hit the reset button. 

I wish that I could tell you that I have risen above the stress of 2020 and the Christmas season,, and I am peacefully gliding through the crazy, prioritizing, putting people first over TO DO lists, remembering that Jesus is the Reason for the Season etc etc…But I’m actually not doing a very great job, in my own estimation. I have been snappy, irritable, not handling things well. My family is getting irritated at me. I’m getting irritated at me. The church service this morning was good. It restored some peace. But I am shocked at how quickly I step back into my irritable mode. Once a week doses of God’s presence aren’t enough. Once a day isn’t enough. I am needing a constant turning. A constant reminder that God is good. That Christmas is about celebrating Emmanuel, God with us, not about doing all the fun activities and getting all the best presents. 

I am obviously not writing this from a place of achievement or even a place of rest and peace. I am writing this from the perspective of a mom who is frazzled, worn out, wanting to make Christmas great for her kids, but is instead rushing and stressing. And I need Jesus. I need peace. I need a constant reminder that I am not alone, that loving my family is more important than making Christmas cookies just-so, or having the house clean at all times. I need a heavy dose of patience and perspective. 

I am writing some reminders on my hands. Emmanuel. Jesus is here with us, I am saved, never alone. Peace. Christmas traditions are not as important as loving your family. Everyone would prefer a calm mom rather than a mom who has done all the stuff. 

I am hoping that over the next week I will see the words on my hands often. I will stop yelling. I’ll take a deep breath. Walk away for a minute. Reset. Start again. 

We’ll see how it goes as I seek Emmanuel and his peace.

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. 

Plans Change, Thank God

This weekend did not go as planned. 

The plan was to have a ton of different activities happening all weekend. Different people going in different directions. Every minute crammed with busyness. 

I was not looking forward to it. I don’t do well with really busy schedules. They stress me. But it seemed unavoidable. 

Then Saturday morning, in the middle of the morning, I got a humongous headache. The kind where you just have to lay down. I had been dragging for a couple days and suddenly felt horrible, achy, nauseous. I got on the phone and started cancelling things. A lot of things. The headache and fatigue fit with the chart of covid symptoms, and a friend of mine, who actually is positive for covid, had told me those were her main symptoms. I decided I better get tested and cancel everything else till I was certain. (Which makes me feel weird. Like, in normal times, I would just be sick and get over it, now I’m freaked out about being contagious, especially since this family has so many moving parts.) 

Andy got home from his morning activity, found me sick, heard all the news, and agreed to shut things down. He took the kids out for an afternoon of socially-distanced, outside, bike riding. I slept. And then sat around in a stupor, trying to find a book to read, but too zoned out to focus on anything. I also tried to deal with an online grocery order that went completely haywire. That was fun. 

This morning I got up early still feeling sick, left at 7:30am and went to get tested. It took a long time, I didn’t get home till 12:30pm, but the good part was I got the results immediately, and I tested negative! Yay! But, I still felt bad, so I came home and went back to bed for several hours while Andy took the kids to his shop for an afternoon of Dad time. 

So, this weekend did not go as planned. 

And it was great. It was exactly what I needed. An entire weekend of rest and no expectations. 

And once again I’m reminded that it often works that way. We make plans, something bad happens, plans get ruined, but it all turns out for the best. 

I think that is part of living a life of faith. We can get rid of a lot of stress if we cling to the promise in Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Not that God makes bad things happen, but that he can turn each bad thing into something good. 

So, I’m thanking God for being sick this weekend, and thanking him for a negative Covid test, and thanking him that I can head into this next week a little more rested and peaceful. 

(I’m feeling better, not perfect, but hopefully by tomorrow whatever this is should be gone.)

“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. 

How to Love Your Neighbor

Hello Internet World. Hope you all are well. I am doing pretty good right now. Feeling rather mellow actually. I’m currently sitting at a Panera with my oldest daughter who is home to visit this week. We both have our computers out…writing. It runs in the family. It is my treasured night off that I get once a week and I am feeling pretty peaceful. 

 

I would have to say this a leftover from this past weekend where my husband and I were able to go have a weekend away while my parents watched the kids. It was a much needed break and even though I got thrown right back into the melee when I got home, I am feeling a lot more relaxed about life. 

 

This is having positive effects all around. I’m not feeling on edge, so when the kids are being crazy, I don’t react crazy. I stay calm and that helps everyone else get calm. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, Self-Care, take care of yourself…Here’s the weird thing. When you take care of yourself, it helps you to take care of everyone else better. 

 

That verse in the Bible, the Ultimate Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself…it’s hard to love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself. 

 

As a mom, it is so hard to prioritize taking care of myself. It’s my job to be self-sacrificing, the kids come first, my needs aren’t as important. Which is true to an extent, but if I don’t find a healthy balance of taking care of me and taking care of them, if things get out of balance, I end up not being able to take care of them after all. 

 

I know this. I completely burnt out on life several years back and went through a couple years of deep depression. Coming out of that depression took time, and I had to learn some new skills. Here are some things I learned in no particular order.

 

  1. Deal with the inner emotional issues. Get some counseling, therapy, whatever you need, to start digging out the root of your unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns.
  2. Cultivate some outside interests.
  3. Start using your talents that you have allowed to go dormant. 
  4. Speak up. Give honest answers instead of pretending everything is fine. 
  5. Be daring and allow yourself to open up to some trusted friends, show them the real you. 
  6. Prioritize getting regular breaks. Even if they are just a short hour here and there. 
  7. Keep talking to God. Even if you are too tired to read your Bible or listen to a sermon, keep talking to him. He’s the best friend you can ever have. 

 

This is not a complete list, but these are what come to mind when I think back on how God has been teaching me over the years to love myself. And loving myself has made it so much easier to love others. Funny how that works. 

 

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.