When You’re Just Not Feeling It

I’m not feeling it today. I woke up with a headache this morning that didn’t go away till the afternoon. Then starting about four, I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. But I had to, because this night is my husband’s shop night and so I was on my own to get kids to bed. I fell asleep in the two year old’s bed, because he wouldn’t go to sleep and I finally gave up and just laid down on his bed and went to sleep myself. It must have worked because I eventually woke up and he was asleep next to me. I dragged myself downstairs, remembering that I hadn’t finished my blog for the next day. I started one this afternoon. All about perfectionism. And I just reread it and I feel like I’m preaching. And I just don’t feel like preaching today.

I want to write down funny stories about what my kids have done, but my sense of humour has been a bit strained lately. I would like to be poetic or lyrical. Nope. That’s not happening either. Today is just one of those days where you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving.

There were a couple sweet notes in the day. Eating lunch on the deck with my two little boys and my husband who came home from work. Giving my six youngest children the job of moving our humongous trampoline from one corner of the yard to the opposite corner, a journey that was long, and involved getting around a lot of obstacles. Not only did they rise to the challenge, but they managed to work together cheerfully and with lots of enthusiasm. So, now you know, teamwork building project: have your children move a really big trampoline. That cheerfulness even lasted all the way to bedtime, major bonus.

Let’s see. Other good things that happened today…I got to help my eight year old daughter practice a couple songs on the piano and started teaching her a cute little song to sing for our musical evening that’s coming up soon. I got to sit out in the sunshine and fresh air while I watched my little boys playing in the yard. I exercised today, despite my headache.

I thought about some good things. Pondered perfectionism. Questioned the meaning of life. Daydreamed about what my children would be like when they were all grown up. Enjoyed reading a book by Linda Nichols, “In Search of Eden”. I recommend that book and any of her other books. She’s a really good storyteller that mixes gritty, harsh reality with amazing grace.

I will conclude with one little snippet about perfectionism. I am a closet perfectionist. I feel like a good day only happens when my house is spotless; I’m full of energy; my children are all perfectly-behaved, content, and well-adjusted. Today wasn’t really any of those things (aside from the success of children moving a trampoline). But, looking back, I have to say. It was a good day. Full of flaws: headaches and messy houses included, but it’s ok. The day doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. What makes the day good is me being able to stop and notice the goodness tucked away here and there. It’s a good day when I take the time to be thankful for the small things.

I guess it was a pretty good day after all. And the best thing, I can now go to bed. 🙂

 

Fantasies of a Middle-Aged Housewife (G-rated)

Ever since I can remember, I have put myself to sleep at night making up stories where I’m the main hero. When I was a kid I would think about some great book I had just finished reading and I would re-imagine the story with me as one of the characters. I remember Little Men by Louisa May Alcott in particular. I was a tomboy and I loved imagining being part of the gang. I would spin stories in my mind till I fell asleep.

Today, as I waited in the car line to pick up my kids from school, I found my mind wandering, starting to make up a new story. What if, for some reason or other, I was taken away from my life to some resort-like place where I would be forced to undertake some drastic, but super-healthy, weight loss program, and also take yoga classes, and lift weights, and maybe start running again. And get plastic surgery for stretch marks, and, here’s the real amazing thing, get put under the charge of a dentist who would fix all my teeth and make them all white and straight and beautiful (because what middle-aged person doesn’t fantasize about having a fortune to pour into their teeth??) And of course there would be a beach nearby that I would walk on regularly until I had achieved complete inner peace. And then, after all that process was finished, and I now looked like one of those people out of magazines that you always secretly ooh and ahhh over, then I would go home to my loving family who somehow managed to be completely happy while I was away. And I would say Surprise! And they would be awed and amazed at this New Esther.

And then somewhere around there my fantasy fades out, because, in reality, my family doesn’t care a hoot what I look like, or how straight my teeth are, or whether I have stretch marks or not. And really, they wouldn’t be happy if I went away for any length of time. My family can hardly make it if I leave for the day.

But it’s fun to dream.

I think it’s funny what I fantasize about these days. Let’s see. I fantasize about having a housekeeper who lives with us and takes care of all the cleaning chores in the house (especially laundry and dishes!). In fact, I would take care of the grocery shopping and cooking, so I wouldn’t be considered completely lazy, just so I don’t have to clean.

How about this one? Enough money to take summer-long vacations with the family to exotic places all over the world.

Or, my toddler potty-training himself, in one day.

Here’s a good one. My husband handing me a large chunk of money and telling me he wants me to go to the beach by myself for a week, since I seem a little stressed lately. 🙂

How about hair that doesn’t turn grey and remains as thick and full as when I was 20?

My favorite one, children who never fight, always do their chores cheerfully, and love to help around the house.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work this way. Usually, I can accept that with a philosophical shrug. Then I have days like today when I’m just unusually tired and really all I want to do is climb into bed and nap and read and eat take-out. But instead, I clean the house, bathe toddlers who rolled around in the mud, cook a healthy supper, and plan to be up till late at night as I divvy up my attention between all my kids.

Reality. It’s actually more fantastic that my fantasies. Who wouldn’t enjoy a long trip to a spa? Who wouldn’t flourish under that kind of care? The real amazing thing is being able to flourish and enjoy a day of hard work under less-than-ideal working conditions. To end the day satisfied and content despite the fact that I wasn’t pampered or given special consideration. That kind of reality can only come from the daily grace Jesus gives me. I’m so thankful for that grace and I’m clinging hard to it today. May I end the day thankful. That’s a fantasy worth pursuing.

🎶We All Need Somebody to Lean On!🎶

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

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

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

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

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

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 says:

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

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

🎶“We all need somebody to lean on!” 🎶

 

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

Generation to Generation

I was in the kitchen this evening cooking supper. My phone chimed, I checked and my Mom had just texted me. I quickly responded and told her that I had received the “Happy Light” that she had sent me in the mail (since she knew I had been struggling with depression)  and I had used it. It had seemed to help me with my bad mood. She quickly texted me back to give me some quick tips on how to use it. I smiled to myself. Yes Mom. You already told me this. 🙂 Then my phone chimed, my daughter who is off at college was texting me. I had texted her about some mail she had received at our house, asking her whether she needed it or not. And suddenly I felt like I was in a time loop. My mom was texting me because she wanted to help me out, I was texting my daughter because I wanted to help her out, and I suddenly had this Great Understanding. Oh. I get it Mom. This is why you still try to give me advice. This is why you buy special little things for me. In your mind, I’m still your little girl.

I have this overwhelming desire to help my own grown-up daughter in whatever way I can and I am trying to learn as fast as I can how to give her the space she needs to be a grown-up and be her own person and learn how to be independent, but that desire to Mother her is always there. Sometimes I step over the line and I can tell by the tenseness in her face that I need to back down and shut up. But that desire never goes away. I still want her to be well-fed, well-rested, have enough clean clothes to wear, have some good Real friends, be getting satisfaction from her work, know that she is walking after God. I don’t think that desire ever goes away. She’s my little girl, even if she’s 18 years old. And I’m still my Mom’s little girl. Even if I’m 40.

Later this evening I was tucking my four year old son into bed. He was laying on his bunk bed, smiling at me in the lamplight, laughing and telling me a funny story. And I thought about generations again. This particular child looks uncannily like his father’s childhood photos. And I suddenly wondered, is this what my husband was like when he was little? That adorable face and shining eyes and mischievous smile? Was I getting a glimpse into the past? Is this what my mother-in-law saw every evening when she put my child-aged husband to bed every night? I suddenly felt like a door had swung open and given me a peek at my husband’s childhood.

It’s interesting that God created us in this way. Each generation raising up the next. It’s a strange cycle. As a child I remember the urgency, the longing to be a grownup. Why? So that I could marry and have kids of my own, and those kids have a longing to grow up and have kids of their own, and so we perpetuate the human race. Each generation doing whatever they can to help the next generation along.

I am thankful for my parents. Thankful that I still have them close by. Thankful that they still care about me and want to know that everything is going well for me. I am also thankful that I have children that I can carry on the tradition with. Children who I can text on the phone, You doing ok? Want to come home for the weekend? And I am hopeful, so hopeful that one day my children will have children of their own who they will be checking up on even when they are all grown.

This whole generations thing…It feels like the goodness of God. As I sit in my chair, late at night, writing on my computer, all my children are upstairs in their bedrooms, the younger ones fast asleep, the older ones puttering around, trying to not give in to sleepiness till the last moment possible. Soon I will go climb into bed, snuggled warm against my husband. This is life. The life God created and gave to us. A gift.

Psalm 145 vs 4 says,

“One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.”

So, I declare to my children who read this, to the younger generations that have come up after me… God is good. This life he has given us is good. Marrying, having children, raising families, it is good. Maybe this is why:

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100 vs 5

Post Christmas Blues

Holidays are strange things. The more you get hyped up about them, the lower you feel when they’re all over. Some article I read about emotional cycles said it was normal, if you have a big emotional high your emotions are going to swing low afterwards before they eventually even out again.

Christmas is a big high for me, an entire month of celebrating. Then Christmas night I feel that low feeling creeping in on me. What’s next? New Year. ugh. New Years for me is an odd mixture of disappointment as I look back at the past year and realize I didn’t accomplish half the goals I set out to accomplish, and then hope…maybe this next year will be better and I will finally make those positive changes to my life that I’ve been dreaming of for years.

Christmas night is also a good time to realize once again that: stuff doesn’t make us happy (as evidence, the kids still found something to fuss about); it’s really the people in our life that bring us joy (Christmas was fun because I was with my family); it’s more blessed to give than to receive (I think I had a lot more fun than my kids, just watching everyone open all the presents we got them); and in the end, we all need Jesus (as I felt the low encroaching on me, it was Jesus, not my new stuff or even my family that could calm my spirit and bring me peace again).

So, I”m going to end this with my cure for lowness. I’m going to be thankful. I am thankful that my husband and I had the resources to get our children gifts this year. I am thankful that my children put out effort on their own to get presents for each other. I am thankful my parents were able to come and spend time with us. I am thankful for my warm cozy house that has enough room for 10 kids. I am thankful for sparkly lights and candles and bright cheerful ornaments. I am thankful for my husband who worked alongside me Christmas Eve on all the last minute preparations even though he was burning up from a fever. And I am thankful for a grand big celebration of Jesus coming to earth. Thankful that he is Emmanuel, God with us. Thankful that Jesus is enough for my highs and my lows. Happy Post Christmas Everyone.

Meandering Thanksgiving Memories

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After my husband and I got married we gallivanted around for a while. We spent our first year of marriage in Knoxville, Tennessee, while Andy finished up his last year at UT. Then when our first born was only 10 days old, we moved to Alaska to be near my parents. We stayed in Alaska for a year and half then, when I was 7 months pregnant with our 2nd child, we moved to Chile to be near my husband’s parents. We stayed there 15 months then moved back to the states when his parents retired as missionaries. We arrived in Florida, bought a used car, packed all our earthly belongings, a 2 ½ yr old, 1 yr old, and our dog into a little Suburu station wagon and headed north. We found out right away that our car needed work. It overheated continually and our 10 hour drive to Knoxville, TN turned into a 24 hr drive as we crawled our way up the highway in the middle of summer, stopping every couple miles to let the car cool down before we crawled forward again. Our goal was to make it to Knoxville where we had some friends who were willing to give Andy some work and give us a temporary place to stay. We eventually made it in and enjoyed our couple weeks in Knoxville, catching up with our friends, fixing our ailing car, getting some traveling money.

After Knoxville, we headed north again, this time heading towards Green Lake, Wisconsin where we met up with Andy’s parents at the American Baptist World Missions Conference. During that time I discovered I was pregnant again. We now needed a place to hunker down while I weathered the months-long intense nausea. Andy’s parents were settling into a new home in Maine and offered for Andy to come and remodel their kitchen. We loaded up our car and headed towards Maine. We ran out of gas money just as we got to New Hampshire and so we made our way to one of Andy’s adopted Moms’ house, Lynn Yule. She was willing to let Andy do some handyman work around her house in exchange for some gas money so we could make it the rest of the way to Maine.

We spent several months in Maine with Andy’s parents while Andy built a new kitchen for his parents and I stayed close to the bathroom. Finally I started feeling better and we prepared for the future. Our plans had been to go to Kentucky to live close to my Grandparents who were having some health problems. It was where I had been born and spent some of my childhood so it seemed like as good a place as any to settle down. We bought a very old camper/trailer. It looked and felt like a miniature trailer home instead of the more modern campers, but it had a built in bathroom, beds, and a small kitchen. No living room furniture, just empty space which we later filled with a loveseat/hideabed. Andy bought an old truck (an ‘86 F250 4wd diesel) (my husband said some people would want to know) that “needed work” to haul the camper and we figured we could live in it until we got ourselves more established. We were ready to go. About a week before we had planned to leave, my grandmother wrote and asked us to not come. Life’s messy. All the reasons behind that letter really aren’t my story to tell, but we did feel a bit like the rug had been pulled out from under us.

So, we regrouped. Looked at our options. Andy’s uncle offered a job in Florida, but we didn’t know anyone there, no friends. No church. We had a place we could stay in Maine, but the job options were very limited. We could go back to Tennessee. We didn’t have any jobs or place to live there, but we had a good church family, good friends. We finally decided that Tennessee was the way to go. With the connections of friends and a church, we figured that jobs and places to lived would fall in place. We loaded up the trailer, truck ready to haul, Suburu stuffed to the gills again. It was November and I was now 5 months pregnant and would be driving from Maine to Tennessee with two little ones in the backseat, following Andy while he hauled our camper. I just have to add some pertinent information. I didn’t get my driver’s license till after my first child was born and the only driving I had done was in small, rural towns. To say I was terrified of the drive would be putting it mildly. This was before cell phones were completely dominant so we bought a set of walkie-talkies to keep in touch while we drove.

It took us 7 days to get to Tennessee. Not because we were taking our time, but rather because everything that could go wrong went wrong. Vehicles breaking down, weather breaking windows on the camper, me going left while Andy went right when we got to a confusing intersection. We spent a couple nights at a Flying J’s truck stop while Andy tried to fix problems on the truck and camper so we could keep going, and I tried to keep two small children happy in the middle of November at a truck stop.

We finally limped into Knoxville on November 12th and headed for the Volunteer Campground up on Raccoon Valley Road. We had looked it up in the yellow pages, called ahead, and they were affordable and had space. We got there on a Sunday afternoon. We pulled into a short-stay sight and Andy got us all hooked up, went to the camp store and got some food to cook for supper, then he told me he figured he would head over to our old church for the Sunday night service. Maybe he could hook up with one of his old friends and ask about jobs. I inwardly groaned at having to settle the kids in for the evening by myself, but I was grateful for his willingness to pursue work right away.  I nodded and agreed it was a good idea.

Andy came back a couple hours later and said he had spoken to his friend Tony and he would be able to head into work the next morning. It was just a temporary job, but it was something. We took it as a good omen. The temporary job ended up introducing Andy to another person who was hiring and for whom Andy ended up working for another six years.

We settled in pretty quickly. We got together with old friends and had a good time comparing our new parenting experiences. At church I got hooked up with our church’s homeschooling co-op and ended up getting some piano teaching jobs, plus a whole new group of friends. Life at the campground was fun. We were moved over to a more permanent spot and had fun meeting lots of interesting people. There was a strong sense of community, and people helped each other out.

Our finances were very tight. There was a man in our church who worked for a bread store. He had got permission from all the powers-that-be and he would bring in the old bagels that could no longer be sold and put them on a table at church where people could help themselves. Every week I would got get a couple bags and that kept us fed for lunches for the rest of the week. I figured out which grocery stores had the best deals and stretched my pennies to the breaking point. I learned how to be very creative with what I had. I couldn’t afford to buy a calendar, but I had some craft supplies so I got my two little ones to help me make a calendar page for our current month, complete with stickers and little stick drawings. During the holidays I bought a large bag of oranges and some sugar and using my saved jam jars, made orange marmalade and homemade cards for Christmas presents. Andy got some wood and made homemade wooden blocks for the kids which entertained them for hours. I would go borrow a bunch of books from the library to read out loud. We only had a tiny space to live in, but it was full of peace and fun. The kids even managed to somehow play hide-and-seek with their dad. In a camper. It helped that they were little and unobservant. 🙂 It was a difficult time, but a very rich time. Andy and I were determined to do whatever we needed to move forward and we didn’t let the hardships get us down, because that was just part of the adventure.

We got to Tennessee in November and Thanksgiving rolled around very quickly. My parents flew down from Alaska and got a room at a nearby hotel. My mom and I went shopping for the Thanksgiving dinner and I kept having to remind my mom that I only had a tiny fridge and a little stove. As it was, when it came time to cook the turkey, we had a big scare that the turkey wouldn’t fit in our mini-oven. But we finally managed to cram it in there. We had a little card table set up as our dining room table and we got some folding chairs and somehow, holding small children in our laps, we managed to squeeze around our little table and enjoy our feast. Sometime during the meal we went around and shared what we were thankful for. Family, good food, a roof over our heads, a job, new beginnings. Friends.

In retrospect I can see how that Thanksgiving kind of held to the spirit of the first Thanksgiving so many years ago. Starting over in a new place. Things aren’t super comfortable. Some mixed emotions about the places you left behind. No idea how the future is going to unfold. And taking some time to be thankful. Because there is always something to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving, fifteen years down the road, I give thanks for Tennessee and how it’s people have opened their arms to us. I give thanks for my family, a roof over my head. Jobs. Old pathways that continue to meander their way into the future. Friends.

God is good.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!