Tuesday, May 24, 2016

the gift

"Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life"

During these last six weeks of not feeling like myself one of the things that has been hardest for me to hold on to is perspective. It has made me realize how much I take my health and body for granted and when I can't do what I want to do that is really hard for me. Depression can set in when I only see things through my narrow perspective.

I am feeling better every week and I know the Lord is teaching me so much about myself...learning to rest, letting go of the to do list, how I handle stress, the voices I listen to and so much more.  My neck and back issues have caused me to slow down, a gift in itself when I can stop fighting long enough to receive it. Every time people have prayed over me in the last month the words have always been about "rest" so I am starting to finally get it.

Sometimes I feel like I can only rest when all the work is done but with a family of seven there is always things to do. At times even when my body is resting my mind can be listing all the things that are still left undone. It is a continuous choice to change my focus point. I can focus on the mess, the laundry undone, the dishes in the sink, the flower beds that need weeded, the garden left unplanted or I can see the child in front of me wanting to read, the view of the meadow from the porch, the children laughing together while making mischief, the blessing of family, the gift of a husband who loves me. When my heart is at peace I can see these gifts so much clearer than when my mind is frantic and the pace of life is busy.

One of our dear photographer friends asked if she could come and take real life pictures of us for her portfolio.  She came on a Sunday morning and captured our weekend ritual of making brunch together. If these pictures had audio it would be loud and messy and chaotic. But these pictures speak volumes in themselves. They remind me of what is important. They put things in perspective.

 The gift of an ordinary day.

*Photography by Laura Burkholder

Sunday, May 8, 2016

take a bow.

For a tired and weary mama a date night is like a cold drink of water in the desert or a life raft thrown to you out at sea or some other dramatic analogy. It is more than needed. It is necessary.

So when a dear friend asked if she could watch the kids for us so we could go on a date I practically shouted "YES" and instantly pulled out my phone to put a date on the calendar. 
Tuesday night we drove together into the city excited to just be alone together. We went to one of our new favorite restaurants and enjoyed catching up on our days without being in competition with five other voices. After dinner we had been given free tickets to the Fulton theater which neither one of us had been at since we were kids. 

We sat in a sea of gray hair and we were the elite few under the age of 60 which we definitely shared a few laughs about. But we enjoyed sitting close holding hands none the less.
The play was good...sad and funny. But what stuck out to me the most was how the main actress totally gave herself to the role. You could feel the emotion she projected and at the end when she took her bow you could still see the tears fresh on her face from the closing scene. She looked spent and yet still in character. It was impressive to watch.

I commented about this to Mark as we walked out of the theater. " That must be exhausting to do that day in and day out...giving yourself so fully to the role"
As I said it there was something inside of me that connected with that feeling and I felt like I could cry. 
Mark turned and looked at me "That's what you do for us every day as a mom"

Tears welled up in my eyes as he said those words. I knew it was true. Sometimes I feel like there is something wrong with me that I am tired at the end of every day but the reality is I am exhausted because I am giving myself to the role. The most important role that I will ever play. The one I have always wanted to be. 

Mother. Mom. Mommy.

I am tired because I am doing it. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Unraveling: Just Breathe

As a baby when I was frustrated or upset I would hold my breath. My mom tells the story of how she put me in the play pen so she could get some stuff done without me crawling all over the place getting into things. I apparently did not like being confined so I screamed and cried and held my breath till my face turned blue...and I passed out. I can only imagine my Mom's horror at her pig tailed one year old turning blue and going limp before her eyes.

Moses did the same thing several times as a baby and he comes by it naturally and I guess it speaks of my stubbornness and strong will. But also how when I am upset or frustrated that I will literally forget to breath. Lately there are times where I finding myself holding my breath and I don't even realize it till I go to take a deep breath and it literally feels like there is not enough air. I don't realize how much I am holding it all in.

Usually this happens before school when getting everyone out the door or at the dinner time crazy hour. It goes something like this. I am trying to make dinner or think about what the heck I am going to cook for dinner. Somebody punched somebody. An anxious thought goes through my head. Another kid is screaming. This kid needs help with their homework or wants me to sign the upteenth paper/folder/permission slip. Mark is calling from work with a question. I think to myself so and so's kids probably don't act like this. A loud cry of "MOMMMY".  And then I try to take a breath and realize I can't breath. I have been holding my breath with each thing coming at me.

I need to learn some new patterns.
I need to breathe. 

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on the religion? Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me. Watch how I do it.Learn the unforced rhythms of GRACE. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly"~matthew 11:28-30 the message

"A mother's labor and delivery never ends and for years she has to remember to just take a deep breath. Whole battles can be won by one breath and a prayer at a time."
~ann voskamp

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Unraveling: Reviving dry bones

"Anxiety and depression dry the bones. His love is blood reaching every part. His love awakens the dying parts, knits me back together mind, body and soul"
~ Amber Haines

I feel like I am constantly fighting back the demons of fear and worry these days. If it not fear about my own body and the weird process it seems to be going through then it is about something happening to Mark or the kids. Sometimes when the fear comes it is literally like I can't do anything else and guess what my neck starts hurting more too. It is all connected more than I realize.

I felt like the Lord asked me the other day what I was so afraid of. 

I am afraid because I really do have a beautiful life. I am afraid of both not fully enjoying it and also of losing it. Oddly enough the fear is what prevents from enjoying it. There are days and moments (like the  hair pulling, nerve scratching, dinner time crazy hour) where I want to escape my life...melt into the walls or hide in the bathroom because the noise, fighting, constant demands, and internal battles seem to be draining the very life out of me and I fear losing my mind. But that very same life I want to escape at times is the very life I am so desperately afraid to lose. So at times I teeter back and forth between the two feeling like a crazy woman.

Jesus help me.

The truth is, it is hard. This mothering thing is hard. The demands are very real. And I put way too much pressure on myself.
The truth is also this, that I am not in control of much but I can be in control of my thoughts. And worry only drains me.  Fear doesn't stop things from happening...it only stops me from enjoying the moments in front of me.

Jesus drown my fears in your perfect love. Revive these dry bones. Awaken my soul.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Unraveling: Learning to Swim

"I wanted a way of living that felt more like living and less like drowining"
~Shauna Niequist

I had been feeling like I was drowning. Like everything felt like too much and when I tried to come up for air I was more gulping mouths full of water than really breathing. Something needed to change.

After three weeks of continued neck pain I went to a chiropractor. Just going there felt like I was pushing through a lot of fear but I knew I needed help and I could literally feel something moving in and out of place. Just resting wasn't healing it. Also now I was having hip pain too. The X-rays confirmed I had a bunch of stuff going on in my neck and also my hip...degenerative discs and a compressed disc causing the pinched nerves to name a few. They suggested I come twice a week for 6 weeks to start with.

I fell apart when I got the diagnosis. I felt so weak. Frustrated. Ashamed.

At the same time I was drowning in fears. In doubt. In the weight of being a mother. In the pressures of day to day life.

I literally felt like I was being unraveled.

But then God spoke to me tenderly in church one morning that he is doing more than just realigning my bones but my heart also. I am being unraveled but it is out of love not punishment. It is a healing down to my very bones. He is healing me from the inside out.

"You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
My deliverance from my enemies 
Till all my fears are calmed
I am no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God".

~ Jonathan and Melissa Helser

And when God is unraveling you it is a good thing. It is like He is shining his healing light onto things in my heart. "Here this needs to be looked at" and "I would like to take this from you". My job is to be quiet and listen...and trust the process, something that is so hard when I want instant healing and results. I need to remember this, God wants to restore my joy to the point where life doesn't feel like it is constantly draining and every little thing is exhausting. He doesn't want me to drown but swim and get this, enjoy it.

"Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim."
~Tyler Knott Gregson

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Unraveling: When God has our backs

I am going to start a little series called "The Unraveling". It is about the process I am currently in. Writing my thoughts out has been part of the unraveling process and pushing publish feels a bit scary and vulnerable but my hope is these words might resonate with someone else too. And also that I may someday look back and recall to mind what the Lord has done.


I laid next to the thrashing toddler gently holding her down. I knew she was exhausted, the tears whining and fussing all morning had proven that. Yet here she was screaming and crying and fighting her nap. "Why are you fighting rest?" I wanted to ask and started to. But the words stopped short and seemed to be staring back at me.

It had been a rough week or so. I had woken up one morning with a stiff neck and pinched nerve in my shoulder. The first couple days I just tried to ignore it. I have noticed this pattern that sometimes when I am not feeling well I add more onto my plate. It is like subconsciously I am feeling out of control so I decide that cleaning out closets and organizing the pantry makes sense when my neck is killing me. It is not logical at all but it is what I do. Finally after a week of a stiff neck and discomfort I broke down and cried. Fell apart really. I recognized how much tension I was feeling inside. I wasn't sure what was cause and effect but it didn't matter. I could say I wasn't tense but if a kid touched me the wrong way or didn't respond how I wanted it was like they were reaching inside of me and pushing a nerve and I reacted. Usually with a harsh tone or impatient gesture. I needed to start to unwind.

So here I was laying with Eden wondering why she was fighting rest. All that was waiting for her on the other side was the comfort of my arms and peace for her body and mind. But she was fighting. After continued efforts and encouragement and me gently holding her down she finally fell asleep.

It was time for me to do the same. I cleared off my schedule. Started to take time to rest on the couch. Use the heating pad. Let the laundry and dishes pile up. My neck started to feel a little better. But I 
still felt knotted up inside.

I have been feeling lately like I just want things to slow down and stop, for the merry go round that is life to pause. But when my body started to scream for rest it was hard for me to pause. I didn't realize how much pressure I had been putting on myself and  a lot of the expectations I felt were internal. I am a stay at home mom and my own boss but sometimes I am just downright bossy and a slave driver not giving myself grace. I also started to see how since Eden has stopped napping I had stopped resting too and picked up the mentality that the more I got done in a day the better. When I was finally forced to stop I felt frustrated by how I couldn't do what I wanted to do. It felt like a punishment rather than a blessing of rest. I also realized how easy it was to get distracted from true rest by picking up my phone. Sometimes we need to stop fighting and rest and sometimes we need to fight for the rest.

Around this same time Mark came home from the gym and had pulled a muscle in his back. We were quite the couple with his sore back and my stiff neck taking our Motrin and snuggling with our heating pads and both struggling a bit for perspective. A friend of ours had been praying for him right after it happened and felt like God was wanting to speak something through it and the word was this:
"He has our backs"

Why do I have so much trouble believing this...like deep down trusting this?

 He has our backs. He's got my neck. He has my life.

My heart can be at rest.