Delight Yourself in the Lord

Delight yourself in the Lord. 

Last night in our church’s prayer meeting, this was the admonition of our pastor. 

I’ve been pondering on this since yesterday. How do I delight myself in the Lord?  How do I take pleasure in him? What does this look like in everyday living?

This past week I have been pretty numb. Trauma does that to me. I just kind of shut down for a while. My emotions get overloaded and they just turn off. For some reason, yesterday was my hardest day. I was fighting depression and hopelessness and it was a major feat to just put one foot in front of the other. Last night’s online prayer meeting was a breath of life that I needed. (By the way, this is just another example of why we need to be plugged into the body of Christ.)

This morning I woke up early. It is my husband’s birthday and I wanted to make him a special breakfast. I was up and so I was able to pause for a moment, look out the window, and see the beginning of a soft orange and purple sunrise. At the same time, I also noticed some of our bushes had flowered pink and white in our yard. Later on in the morning, I went outside on our deck and just sat in the sunshine. My little boys joined me and while I closed my eyes, soaking in the warmth, they chattered on about little boy things. Animals they could see in our yard. What if our cat was actually a WILD cat? What if our white cat was actually an ARCTIC FOX! I said uh huh, and yeah, in all the appropriate places, smiling at their antics, taking in the light. This evening we went for a walk after supper, and I noticed how the setting sunlight lingered on the green tree on the corner. The breeze rustled through the branches, the leaves shook and twisted, reflecting light as if they were glass pendants hanging from a chandelier. And through all of this there was a murmur in my head. Thank you Lord. This is beautiful. I love your creation. 

And I felt delight. 

Today was also a day for focusing on my children. Trying to give them some concentrated attention. We made trips to the library, read books out loud. Sat and cuddled on the couch. I made an effort to reach out whenever I could, tussle their hair, give a quick hug, listen with my eyes on their face. And through all of this there was a murmur in my head. Thank you Lord for these children. They are so beautiful. I am so blessed to be their mother. 

And I felt delight. 

Today I wrestled through some thoughts and ideas that have been wandering around my head. What is my response when my children’s schools go through such turmoil? And I felt peace. Maybe a change will be needed in the future, but for now, I feel that we proceed on the path that we are on. Walking in faith that all things work for good to them who love God. Trusting that if or when a change is needed in how we do school, God will make it clear. And there was a release of tension and a murmuring in my head. Thank you Lord. Thank you for your peace. 

And I felt delight. 

And you know, I almost missed it. Because all these moments were tangled up with messy life. Accidents, temper tantrums, impatience. Chores not done right. Kids fighting. It was not a day of meditation and calm. It was a normal day with kids and a large crazy house. But, tucked all throughout the day was beauty and thankfulness and peace. And I feel a murmur in my head saying Thank you Lord for this day. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for the meaning you infuse in my life. Lord you are Good. 

And I feel delight. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this beautiful fall day in East Tennessee, I sit on the porch with a full stomach after feasting with my family, watching my children run around in the outdoors. And I am thankful. Thankful for family, home, God’s provision for all our needs. I’m thankful for friends and church family. I’m thankful for my online community and all my readers that make this blog fun.

May you be blessed today and full of the joy and peace that comes when you take time to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bedtime Meditations

Senate hearings, upcoming elections, every headline forecasting doom and taking a jab at some political party. Anger. Fear. Anxiety. 

If you are on social media, this is what is consuming us right now. 

And I ponder a future of unrest, riots, uprisings. Pandemic out of control. People out of control. A country that refuses to unite. 

And I feel weary. Unsettled. Anxious. On Edge. 

And everyone else around me seems to be feeling the same way. 

And I sit in my chair, late at night, the kids tucked into their beds, the little ones all asleep. And I take a deep breath, let it out. Take another one. Let it out. 

And I wonder how to find the right balance of getting on with the beauty of living, being prepared for future problems, and finding my peace in Jesus. 

Step one: think about something happy. 

I have a new puppy. It’s really cute. We also just figured out that he is deaf. This is a very unexpected twist in our life plot. My husband has started researching how to train a deaf puppy. What precautions we need to take etc. We have a couple basic hand signals, and I’ve been trying to teach the kids what they are so we can all be on the same page. 

Our Mama cat also gave birth to five new kittens today. This was an “oops” pregancy. I’m trying to get her fixed, but I wasn’t fast enough after her last litter of kittens. We have three orange kittens and two black kittens that will need good homes in about eight weeks. Mama and babies are tucked away in my son’s bedroom where the door stays shut from all other animals and small children. Puppy stays downstairs and outside. Fish stay in their fish tanks. The other three cats do as they wish. I seem to have started a Noah’s Ark. And I’m enjoying it. Fortunately the ferrets moved on with my oldest son. I am being very firm now. NO MORE PETS!!

Here’s a pic of my puppy. 

Step two: prepare. 

As my mind runs through all the different future scenarios that freak me out, I’m trying to make a plan for each one. Write it down. Think it through. Follow the scouts motto: Be Prepared. Even if my plans turn out to be silly or unneeded, it makes me feel better. 

Step three: Pray. 

In the end, I have to keep coming back to the fact that my life is in God’s hands. Our country is in God’s hands. This pandemic is in God’s hands. And so I continue to pray, Your Kingdom Come, Your Will be Done. And I cling to the promise that I am his, and he will never leave me or forsake me. And I pray that through everything that life throws my way, my life will somehow bring glory to God. 

Step four: Be Thankful. 

Thank you Lord for my beautiful children! Thank you Lord for my adorable pets! Thank you Lord for work for my husband! Thank you for safety for our family! Thank you for our amazing church! Thank you for all my friends and family who constantly encourage me! Thank you for your love. 

Amen. 

And good night. 

Peaceful dreams for everyone. 

Depression Anniversary

This morning my Facebook memories popped up and showed me that three years ago, I made my first “public” post about my struggle with depression and our decision to put our children in public school. 

I read through the comments again this morning. (All 78 of them!) And what stood out to me was how much of a need we have for people to honestly share their struggles. Knowing that someone else is struggling makes us feel less isolated, it eases some of our shame. 

Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to give you all a “Depression Update”. 

One of my big disappointments in life is that I haven’t had a full recovery from my depression. While I haven’t been as low as I was three years ago, I still feel like depression is something that I have to actively keep at bay. And when I am not purposeful about taking care of myself, it creeps back in. 

Things I do to keep depression away:

Take a night off. 

Wednesday nights are MY nights. My husband gets home from work and I take off. I very often end up at Panera where it’s ok to sit with your computer or a book for a long period of time. I have a couple different friends who often meet me there for an evening of chatting and encouragement. Sometimes I go walking in the park alone or with friends. Sometimes I just leave the house, go buy myself some supper somewhere and then sneak back into my house in the back door and hide in my bedroom, feet up, reading a good book. 

The whole point though is that I can do whatever I want without feeling any guilt about leaving my husband home alone with the kids. (He gets his own night off.)

Give myself lots of space. 

I do not keep a perfectly clean house. I do not run a tight ship. I do not have a perfect schedule. I do not have a full, busy schedule. I am very purposeful about keeping my daily routine as free from stress as possible. I have found that the only way I can maintain a 24hrs a day, 7 days a week parent-of-many-children lifestyle, is to keep my day as calm as possible. Lots of wiggle room. Maybe it only takes us two hours to get all our homeschooling work done.  I give myself four hours. That way we can take lots of breaks, follow rabbit trails if we want, have time to deal with phone calls that might come in, or a quick chore that has to get done. I do not do well when I have to follow a tight timeline. Occasionally it can’t be avoided. There are doctor’s appointments, extra curricular activities, school meetings. If I have a day that involves me running full stop all day long, then I make sure that the next day I have nothing extra going on and I move slower. 

Date nights

The other day I told my husband something that I don’t think I had ever put into words before. “You are essential to my happiness.” And it’s true. When Andy walks in the door at night, my shoulders visibly relax. He makes me laugh. He uses his words often to tell me how important I am to him, to tell me how he feels about me. And I am encouraged and I feel loved. We need time together. We need to be able to unplug from parenting for a minute and just be two adults who like spending time together. Now, I know that for parents with young children, getting out on a date can be impossible. We went years not being able to get out. Now, we have teenagers who can babysit and we try to get out once a week for a date. But, sometimes money or schedules keeps us from being able to go out. Then we have bedroom dates. And by that I just mean we get the kids to bed, maybe get a snack, watch a movie together in our room or just sit and talk. The main point though is that we are purposeful about setting aside at least one night a week that is ours. 

Daily Devotions/ Daily exercise

Taking time every day to read the Bible and pray feeds my spiritual self. Taking time every day to get my body moving feeds my physical self. Sometimes I don’t do these things. But, when I do, I feel happier and have more energy. 

Talk to a therapist/friend equivalent

I still have monthly or bimonthly phone visits with my therapist. And I always think, before the call, do I really need this? And then afterwards, I am always glad that I was able to talk to her. It is a great help to have another adult look into your life and help you process challenges and get a perspective that is focused on the good of you and your mental health.

Practice Thankfulness

This one is actually an outpouring of my Christian walk. The Bible tells us repeatedly to give thanks in all things. As God has been teaching this to me over my lifetime, I have not only learned how to lose a bad mood or a bad attitude, but I’ve also learned how to stop and just take pleasure from small things. The way the sun is shining just-so on that tree. The sound of fall leaves crunching under my feet. The smell of woodsmoke. Watching my children practice acts of kindness to each other. Being thankful, noticing the goodness around me, these have gone a long way in helping me to not succumb to depression. 

In the end, all of these things are tools, not cures. I have days when I crawl back into bed in the middle of the day. Or I end up sitting in my chair, doing nothing. But the difference between years ago and now, is that the next day, I can usually get up and keep moving, instead of it dragging on and on and on. 

Maybe I will struggle with depression the rest of my life. But I have hope and peace that God will help me through it, one day at a time, one strategy at a time. 

An Exercise in Being Aware

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The kids are asleep and I was heading back to my bedroom.  

 

I stepped out on the back deck and I saw Blue. The color blue that reminds me of fairy tales. It’s almost magical. The kind of color I wish could somehow be made into the perfect ball gown, where my glass slippers sparkle on my feet as I enter the silent ballroom, all eyes on me, the mysterious princess. 

 

I stood on my deck and I listened. Crickets. The sound of childhood. Sitting outside on our porch on a warm summer night, deep in the woods in Eastern Kentucky. Going on long walks with my parents in the evenings, down the hollow road (pronounced Holler), take the first right and go up the gravel road to Mayberry Cemetery, get home just as evening has settled.  

 

I stood on my deck and I smelled summer in the city. Fragrant bushes. Green. Also slightly off scents wafting from the alley where everyone’s garbage cans are lined up neatly, waiting for the weekly pickup. 

 

I stood on my back deck and I felt a cool breeze. Surprisingly cool for this time of year and this part of the country. The coolness reminded me that I was only wearing a light summer dress. It made me think of sweaters and shawls. Perhaps grabbing a blanket from inside, curling up on a deck chair while I watched the night fully arrive. 

 

I stepped back inside. Feeling better about life. 

 

This is something I have learned how to do to combat anxiety. There’s a lot of words for it. Centering, Mindfulness, Meditating. 

 

I think I would simply call it, Being Aware. Stopping the racing thoughts and noticing your environment. 

 

From there it’s a simple step to thankfulness.

 

Thank you God for your beautiful creation. Thank you for that amazing shade of blue. Thank you for summertime. Thank you for crickets and trees and bushes and flowers. Thank you for the breeze. Thank you for my home. 

 

Yes. I feel better now. 

Have Yourself a Very Hygge Christmas

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The other day “hygge” was my Word of the Day and I loved it. I thought, This is My word. A word I can get behind.  Then the next day, I saw this picture with the definition again. And suddenly it seems that I’m seeing it everywhere.  And I love it. It fits into the lifestyle that I try to have, noticing the small things and realizing that the small things are actually the big things.

 

Right now, as I sit in my chair I can look out a window and see the early sun slanting in on my neighbor’s house, and just seeing that sliver of sunlight makes me happy. It gives me a feeling of hygge. 

 

Sitting at the breakfast table this past Sunday morning with twelve children all gathered together, everyone chatting happily to each other. Hygge. 

 

Walking through the house last night, right before bed, turning off lights, checking locks on doors…I stopped and noticed all of our stockings hung on the mantle, waiting for Christmas morning. Hygge. 

 

Today I will spend the day baking a humongous pan of cinnamon rolls and a quadruple recipe of pumpkin bread. I’ll get various children to help me and the house will soon smell like a bakery, the smell of cinnamon and warm bread filling the air. Hygge. 

 

Tonight my husband and I will stay up till the wee hours wrapping presents and putting them under the tree. When we are finally done, we will sit on the couch in the dark, maybe with a hot cup of tea, and admire the twinkling lights of the tree and all the surprises waiting underneath. We’ll grin as we imagine the excitement of the kids in the morning when they see all these presents waiting. Hygge.

 

Tonight also, per tradition, all the kids will gather in one bedroom, snuggle in their blankets, and one of the older children will read aloud the book, “The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”. The younger children will fall asleep halfway through the book, the older ones will squirm around, wishing that morning would hurry up and come. The anticipation will be thick in the air as one by one they drop off to sleep. Hygge. 

 

Life is so rich if you can just stop and take notice. May your Christmas be one that is full of hygge as you pause and enjoy the small moments that are all around you. 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

Bad Moods Happen

Today is one of those days where I should have just stayed in bed. Nope. This day is not working for me, I’ll try again tomorrow. This happens to me on occasion. I have a million theories as to why. But as far as making the bad moods stop, I haven’t figured that one out yet. 

 

I have reached an age where I have finally figured out that another person can’t solve all my problems. So, while I was longing to call up my husband during his very busy day of work and complain about life to him, I knew that nothing he said would change my mood or make me feel better. In fact, in the mood I’ve been in, I probably would have picked a fight with him instead. So, I didn’t call my husband. 

 

I tossed around the idea of daydreaming about selling my house and moving to some far off location. But, that dream has lost its appeal. I like my house, run down as it is, and I really don’t want to move anywhere else. So, I gave up trying to do that. 

 

Every task I had to do today felt like a herculean task. Which flea medicine should I buy for my cats? Let’s research online. Whoa. Way too much information here…Let’s try and do some preschool with the four year old. Ok. This requires way too much patience. Better not do this anymore. 

 

I finally put some praise music on. That helped some. Took the boys grocery shopping, got some shopping therapy. Bought a yummy snack, medicating with food. Played the piano a bit, sooth my brain with music. It all helped a bit. Not a great deal. But some. 

 

I’m still in a bad mood. 

 

So, I’m going to put a positive spin on this. I can at least recognize when these moods hit. I hope I am at least learning how to contain that mood to myself instead of trying to spread it around to my family. I had a face off with the four year old over picking up toys, and instead of letting it escalate to a place where I might lose control, I decided to fight this battle later when I was in a better place to deal with it calmly. 

 

I’ve spent a lot of time just talking to God. He hasn’t given me any amazing insights, but it’s comforting to know he’s listening. 

 

This is the yucky side of life. Bad moods happen. It’s not all sunshine and princess tiaras. And, I guess it’s ok. I’m hoping that tomorrow will be better. I plan to spend some time this evening just focusing on things to be thankful for. That’s always good. Maybe preach the gospel to myself again. That’s always helpful. And I’ll pray that tomorrow will be a better day. 

 

Stranded, a Story.

This is a longer story than usual, but one I wanted to write down for the records…

A couple years ago my family got to experience the strange and horrible feeling of being stranded in a strange place with nowhere to go. 

We had an old 15 passenger van which was, admittedly, near the end of its life. We thought we had figured out the ONE magical part that needed to be fixed in order to keep the van running. Alas.. we were wrong. After spending a month in Maine with my inlaws, we were traveling back to Tennessee with a trailer towing behind us, holding all our bikes and camping gear and canoes. We had our dog with us as well. 

Somewhere in Massachusetts, on the turnpike, our van gave it’s last breath and died. We were very close to a rest area and were able to coast into the rest area parking lot. I spent the next eight hours trying to keep 9 children happy (this was before Noah came along). Andy worked on the van doing everything he knew to try. Evening was coming and we realized the van wasn’t going to get fixed. We needed to go somewhere. Unfortunately, transportation was a real issue. A tow truck would not transport a family of eleven. Taxis would not transport a family of eleven, we would have to split our group up. At that point in time, our oldest child was only fourteen. There was no way we were going to send a taxi load of our children off by themselves when we didn’t even really know where we were. I got on my phone and looked at the map, found the next town on the turnpike and then started looking up hotels. I found a motel that was offering cheap rooms. Since we had our dog with us, we had already decided that my husband would get a tow truck and go with the van and our dog and just sleep in the van, and our oldest son elected to stay with him. So, it was me and eight children who needed a room. I called the motel and explained the situation and asked if it was possible for me to get one room for me and my children since I was the only adult and I didn’t want to put my little kids in a room by themselves. The lady on the phone said, yes, of course. I got the address of the motel. Now we just had to figure out how to get there.

Andy came over just then and said he thought he had a ride for us. Apparently two police officers had pulled in to the rest area. They were driving a prison transport van which was empty. My husband approached them and explained our situation and asked if they could help us with a ride. They were surprised at the request, but talked it over and said, yes, they could do this for us. So, we grabbed a couple bags of clothes and diapers and I put the baby in my carrier and got into the back of a prison transport van with my children. Lots of nervous laughter. I exchanged a panicked look with my husband. All we had to keep us connected now were our phones. I had no idea where I was and he wasn’t sure what town the tow truck was going to take our van. We trusted that somehow we would reconnect the next day. 

By the time we got to the motel it was dark. My kids were tired and traumatized and I was being brisk and efficient, trying to exude an air of confidence as I ushered all my kids into the foyer to check in. In the foyer there was a large statue of Buddha with incense burning. My kids had lots of questions about that and I was stressed, trying to keep them quiet, hoping they wouldn’t inadvertently ask an offensive question. I spoke to the lady at the desk and told her I was the woman who had just called her. 

She looked at my group and said, 

Two rooms. You have to get two rooms. 

I gave up arguing and said, Fine, do you have two rooms that are right next to each other? 

Yes, of course. 

I pulled out my bank card and gave it to her. She ran it and then came back to me. 

Your card has been denied. 

WHAT??

I knew that I had a large chunk of money in my bank. I pulled up my banking app, just to verify. Yep. There is definitely money in this account. I asked her to run it again. 

Your card has been denied. 

Ok. Regroup. I walked over to the side and called my husband. I quickly explained what was going on. Ok. He said, here, write down my card number, have them use my card. 

I did so and gave the new card number to the lady who was starting to look suspicious. 

This card has been denied. 

WHAT!!!!!!!!

The lady then said, there is an atm machine across the street in the little strip mall. Go take out cash. 

I counted up the cash I was traveling with. I was ten dollars short of being able to pay for the rooms in cash. I gathered up the kids who were now in a full-blown panic. Keep it together. Keep it together. Lord help. 

I was carrying  the baby and we put the next youngest in the little umbrella stroller we had brought. My oldest picked up the next youngest child and then the other older daughters helped the other boys walk, as they were all falling asleep on their feet. By now it was close to eleven pm. We crossed a little road and approached the bank. I tried the atm machine. My card was denied. Apparently something had triggered a security lock-down on my card. (Personally, I think it was the motel, it was a rather shady establishment.) It was the weekend and late at night so I couldn’t contact my bank. I pulled all the kids in a huddle and had them sit down on the sidewalk in front of the bank. The bank was well-lit, I was pretty sure there would be security cameras around as there was a 24hr atm machine. It seemed like the safest place to stay for the moment.

 I called my husband again. Explaining in an even voice the situation,  but I know that the fear I was feeling was coming through loud and clear to him. He said he was still waiting on the tow truck to come. I told him exactly where I was and he said he would just have the tow truck bring the van to where I was. We would sleep in the van in the parking lot. At least we would be all together. I sighed a big breath of relief. It was very scary to be doing all this without him. 

I sat down with the kids and tried to quiet them and reassure them. One of my little boys started crying. I held him and rocked him, continuing my silent prayer that hadn’t stopped since our van first broke down. 

Just then a fancy little car pulled up in front of the bank. A well-dressed, middle-aged man hopped out of his car and walked towards the atm machine. I tried to look like it was very normal for a woman to be sitting on the sidewalk with eight children in the middle of the night. He glanced my way and kind of winced and then kept walking. He used the atm machine and then walked over to us. Here, he said, and thrust four dollars into my hands, and then quickly got in his car and drove off. 

Now, I must admit, I wasn’t feeling very thankful for this bit of charity. 

Four dollars. Really?? How is this supposed to help??? 

The kids were very curious as to why a stranger had given us some money. I tried to explain that he obviously thought we needed help and so he tried to help.

How is four dollars supposed to help us mom? Umm. I’m not sure. I guess it’s the thought that counts?

Then my phone rang. It was my mother-in-law. We had been on the phone off and on with them, keeping them updated to our situation. I explained how my bank card was not working at all and she told me she would like me to try her credit card. She gave me the number and I said I would let her know if it worked. I called my husband and gave him a quick update and then me and my older daughters gathered up the sleeping children again and we made our way back to the motel. 

I patiently explained to the suspicious lady at the desk that my mother-in-law had offered to pay for the rooms and I had her credit card number. This time it worked and the lady begrudgingly showed us to our two rooms. The two rooms were not next to each other. They were several rooms apart. I smiled politely, thanked her, and waited till she had walked back to her office, and then ushered all my children into one room. No way was I splitting us up. 

The kids were so exhausted it only took minutes for them to fall asleep, spread over the two beds and on the floor. I sat there and waited till they were all resting and then called my husband again. I told him where we were. He said that the tow truck was towing them to the same town and according to the maps, it was only about two miles away. He said that when he got the van settled at the auto repair shop, he and our son would leave the dog in the car and walk to the motel so we could be together. Big sigh of relief. 

I decided to jump into the shower before I went to bed. I entered the bathroom and immediately started hearing screaming from the next room over. There were some large crashes and more yelling. Something thumped into the wall of the bathroom. I continued my day-long prayer. Lord, whatever this altercation is about, please don’t let them start shooting off guns. 

I sat up another hour until finally I heard a quiet knock. I walked over to the door and removed the chairs I had stacked up in front of it (since it was a super-flimsy door without a proper security lock) and let my husband and son in. They were exhausted. They had just walked about two miles and it was now closer to 2am. I handed him the key to the other room since this room was literally overflowing with children. We hugged briefly, clinging to each other, then they went to the other room to sleep. I laid down, feeling peace now that our family was all in one place, and went to sleep. 

The next day my husband left early to go back to the garage to check on our dog and figure some things out. I got the kids up and dressed. We walked back over to the strip mall where I had noticed a small grocery store. I bought some food for the day and we walked back to the motel to eat. The room had a tv but it only got one channel. The room we were staying in was playing JAWS the movie. Not exactly what I wanted to entertain my children. The kids got the bright idea to check the other motel room we had paid for, maybe that tv was showing something different? It was! A western. Fun.

A little later my husband showed up. He and my son were both on bikes towing bike trailers. In one bike trailer was our dog and then the other bike trailer was just full of bikes and bike helmets. Well. This is an interesting solution. My husband and I and five of our children rode bikes while the other four rode in the bike trailers and the dog ran alongside us. The motel owner and his wife came out into the parking lot to see the spectacle. They seemed surprised to see that my story of a broken down car was actually true. 

To make a very long story shorter…We finally ended up riding our bikes to a Jellystone Campground (great place!). The mechanics from the garage were willing to tow our trailer to the campground and so we had all of our camping gear and were able to set up camp. The van was declared unfixable and we spent a week trying to figure out how to get home. Finally my inlaws decided to buy us a van and drove it down from Maine for us. (A super blessing we can’t begin to express our thankfulness for.)

It was a crazy time. My kids were amazing. I was determined to keep our attitudes positive and made it a requirement that everyone list off things they were thankful for every time the mood started getting sour. The kids managed to relax a little and enjoy the time at the campground. We called some friends from our church and they got on the phone and helped with paying for the campground and even arranged for a nearby church to bring us a hot cooked meal. God provided for us in miraculous ways. 

I can’t imagine going through life without God. His peace is what carried me through that time.