Bring It All

Winter sun poured through my dining room window, warming the table onto which I slumped. A hot tear or two slid down my cheek, but only one or two because a full cry required more energy than I could muster.

I just can’t do this anymore, I thought. I can’t keep up! I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so tired. And sad. And tired of being sad. God, help me! What could I possibly be getting so wrong that I feel like this?

Somewhere along the way, I’d fallen into a lifestyle of personal responsibility, which is good in some areas, but less so in others. Mine was in the vintage of a “God helps those who help themselves” mindset.  The running conversation in my head went something like this: “I’ll take care of the stuff I can take care of and I’ll let you know when I need your help, God. Wouldn’t want to bother you with anything frivolous or unimportant!”

So, the laundry? My thing. As was juggling the family’s schedule, keeping everyone moderately happy, refereeing the arguments, managing the money, reading the books, cultivating everyone’s faith, cooking the meals, washing the bathroom, combing my hair, keeping up my marriage, and providing everyone’s education.  The list goes on, but I’m sure you know it because I’m guessing it’s basically your list, too, in one form or another.

I’ve long been aware that the “help themselves” theology isn’t actually found anywhere in the Bible. This isn’t a perspective I actively chose to embrace. But it had crept in so surreptitiously that I didn’t realize it had taken hold until every day was marked by weariness and discouragement.

Sometimes when I ask these existential questions, there’s no answer. Most of the time, actually. Sometimes there’s an answer that appears gradually and over time. And other times, the answer is sudden and surprises me with its clarity, just like the answer was to this January afternoon lament.

“Heidi, you only come to me with the big stuff, with the totally tired stuff, with the end-of-your-rope stuff. If it’s ‘little’ and you think you can do it, you do, and without giving me a second thought. That’s why you’re here, exhausted and dry and in this predicament, you know.

“You have to bring it all to me. The little stuff, too. The stuff you think you can do on your own. The stuff that you hardly have to think about in order to accomplish. All of it. When you do the little stuff in your own strength, you’re using yourself up! That’s not what I intended.

“I don’t think you’re a bother. The supper, the laundry, the paying the bills, the sweeping crumbs under the table for the hundredth time…it’s not a bother to me.  Bring it all to me. I’ll lighten your load.”

I wouldn’t say every problem is a spiritual problem, and I most certainly wouldn’t say things like depression and anxiety can be prayed away. But I would say we exist in several planes–the physical, the emotional, the relational, as well as spiritual–and our problems can exist across several planes simultaneously. I find I often overlook the spiritual plane for those that are more tangible.

I wish I could say that when this answer appeared, relief flooded over me and I’ve been living in peace and bliss since that moment. Instead, I’ve been chewing on this for a month now. Working out my salvation, I suppose. How does this actually happen, bringing it all? How do I cultivate the discipline it takes to stop relying solely on what’s tangible and what I can control and, rather, lean into the spiritual instead?  How do I live with a happy heart independent of my circumstances? How do I learn to view my life differently, so I see all the planes and dwell in their fullness?

In her gem, The Quotidian MysteriesKathleen Norris brings it full-circle: “It is a quotidian mystery that dailiness can lead to such despair and yet also be at the core of our salvation…It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is ‘renewed in the morning’ (ps 90:5), or to put it in more personal and theological terms, ‘our inner nature is being renewed every day (2 Cor 4:16).” (10, 22)

It is through the dailiness, through learning to bring it all, that I will find the renewal I so desperately crave.

Maybe you’re like me and you’re tired, too. Maybe you have a lot of balls in the air and not enough arms in which to catch them. Maybe you know things shouldn’t feel so heavy and difficult, but they do anyway. Let’s hold hands and find the path out together. I know I could use some company on the journey.

Growing Up, Growing Tender

growingupgrowingtender

Must be so nice, I thought, snug under my yellow Holly Hobby coverlet, my golden ringlets piled on the pillowcase. It was night and my mother had just left my room…again…after scolding me for something, which probably involved me hollering incessant questions to her while I was supposed to be falling asleep.

I do wrong things all the time, I lamented. Grown-ups never do anything wrong! I can’t wait to grow up so I won’t make mistakes anymore!

Ah, sweet innocence!

**********

Parenting, she’s not easy. I’d been a middle school and high school teacher, so I never held any happy-go-lucky illusions of motherhood. Babies would be hard. Toddlers and preschoolers would be doubly hard. School-age kids might hold a little reprieve. Preteens and teenagers would be maddeningly hard. But when I came across this photo the other day, its truth reminded me again of how “hard” doesn’t even begin to capture all that is parenthood…

image

And it’s not just parenthood that’s leaves me with a perpetual string of “What am I doing?” questions around every corner. Parenthood is but one area of perpetual uncertainty. It’s life, really. Many facets, if I’m being perfectly honest, like…

|| managing the money (for now and for the future–um, hello, I have no clue how much to budget for food for February, let alone how much to budget for future food purchased during SEVERAL DECADES of retirement!)

|| choosing the right dietary balance so we don’t all wind up obese or with cancer or an autoimmune disease. Have you seen Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead???

|| being married–don’t get me wrong.  I love my husband with my whole heart and he makes every facet of my life better. But living with, loving, and baring my soul to another human is freaking hard sometimes, and it has refined me like nobody’s business.

|| what kind of career to pursue–when am I ever going to figure out what I want to be when I grow up?

|| watching coverage of tragedies and things like the Syrian refugees, the children in particular, whose unspeakable tortures I can’t even begin to fathom, and who I have no clue how to help

Yes, for sure it’s not just this parenting gig that leaves me questioning. The little girl inside me is still waiting for the day when I finally feel like a grown-up, ready to stop making mistakes and know for sure what I’m supposed to do. At this point, I’m guessing that’s not going to happen?

family

I turn 39 last week, and (if you’re good at math like me) 😉 this means 40 is just around the corner. I’ve probably reached the half-ish of my life! And while it has been terribly good, there are still surprises, especially where my emotions are concerned. Most surprising, I don’t feel grown-up.  I don’t feel less uncertain or less timid. I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing.

Really, I just feel more tender.

In fact, with each passing year, as the tenderness has grown, I worried–am I getting this adult thing all wrong? Why don’t I know what happens next? Why do the world’s problems seem bigger, more encompassing? Why do questions seem more innumerable, the answers more elusive? Why does it hurt more when I see my children struggle with something as they grow up? Why is it not just sad, but paralyzingly sad, to watch the news and see the suffering and the war and the refugees? Why am I not growing used to loss and death, instead finding that each time someone passes, the holes they’re leaving seem bigger?

raggedyann

A few months ago, it dawned on me that maybe this burgeoning tenderness wasn’t so much a sign that I was getting things wrong but a sign that I was really growing up. Maybe growing up didn’t look in reality like my childish eyes expected. Maybe I’d been seeking the wrong certainty all along.

Maybe tenderness means learning to lean into uncertainty, not because you know the answers will magically appear but because it’s the only true and worthwhile thing to do. Maybe tenderness means learning to grieve well because you trust that by loosening your grip on the temporal you open your hearts to the transcendent. Maybe tenderness means feeling the thorns but keeping your eyes open because you know beside the thorns come rosebuds and beauty. Maybe tenderness means making a lot of mistakes and being okay with that because mistakes mean you showed up and really lived.

Maybe tenderness, in fact, is the secret of growing up.

I don’t know if I’m right or not. I figure it has taken me 40 years to come to this realization. Give me another 40 to figure out if I’m right, and I’ll let you know. Maybe by then I’ll have figured it all out. Or at least know what I want to be when I grow up? 😉

 

January Reboot

January has not been very kind around here! After a crazy December in which Tahd was gone for two entire weeks of the month and the holiday whirlwinds blew through, I’d been looking forward to a January in which we got back to (and established some new) routines and order. But the last 3 weeks have been anything but!

image

Anniversary date

It started with my dad having a stroke, which was both an unwelcome event and an unwelcome start to a new era–that being the era in which I start to realize and accept that one day (hopefully a long time from now), my parents are going to need my help and I’m going to take care of them. I’M NOT READY. Do you hear me, Universe? Good grief–I still remember being held by my dad while he’d bounce me or rock me and I’d rub his ear.

IMG_0018small

You know how I felt there? Really, really safe. And valued. When the world feels harsh and chaotic like it has for me recently, I remember that place with wistful longing.

Thankfully, his stroke was mild and he is doing well. I, on the other hand, decided his recovery period was a great time for a few falls of my own–three, in fact.

image

All mischief, this one!

First, I fell down our indoor stairs, bashing my knees and hitting my head on the doorframe. I was unsure of whether or not I’d broken or torn something in my knee until just about the time I realized that no, my knee was just bruised, but so was my brain, with a mild concussion that seemed to last a little less than a week.

At about that point, we figured it was time to take down our Christmas tree, which we’re storing in my parents’ attic because we can stand it up and not have to mash it back into a box to put in our own short attic. Unfortunately for me, the front steps had iced over and when I went to hold the door so Tahd could carry the base section, and my legs flew out from under me and I landed on my elbow. Thankfully I didn’t bump my head that time around. No repeat concussions for me!

image

Then a few days later, I was trying to climb down from Gabe’s loft bed when I missed a rung of the ladder and lost my balance, landing with one perfectly good heel on top of a perfectly pointy Lego creation.  Which promptly tore/punctured said heel and left me alternately cursing through tears and wheezing with laughter. I mean, really. What the actual heck is wrong with me???

I put a picture here, but I’m not inserting it in this post because one, it’s a foot picture, and two, it’s of a puncture wound. Ew. But it’s also exactly the kind of thing I’d click on if I were reading someone else’s blog. So for those of you sorry folk who are like me, here you go…

We’re 5 days out from the last fall/injury. I think I need one of these signs for my house:

safetysign

Safety starts with you, Heidi!

THINK SAFETY, HEIDI!

image

Somebunny had her FIFTH birthday!

In other January news, we did manage to get back into a homeschooling groove, which was supposed to be the point of this post all along, but I can see I had a few things to get off my chest…

When we started homeschooling in the fall, I decided to take an eclectic approach to curriculum because I wanted to have the flexibility to match Gabe’s interests with our content areas. Although this was a good choice, my eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach (which I knew might be the case), but I couldn’t really gauge until we’d actually tried it. Once we’d had a few months, it became obvious that I needed to make adjustments.

We’d been using Life of Fred and Your Business Math for math. This was a good start for Gabe, but I knew it wouldn’t hold us over for the long term. I’d picked up a used copy of Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra last spring, so we’ve started that in the last few weeks and I’m pleased with how that’s going.

Language arts had been a huge headache. I love love love the Bravewriter philosophy, but for a zillion reasons (the biggest one being the actual writing), it just hasn’t been working for Gabe. I’ve tried to be really hands-off and nonconfrontational in order to avoid power struggles that complicate the writing process, but we’d reached a complete standstill. After several hours of research, I narrowed it down to Michael Clay Thompson or Institute for Excellence in Writing. Then, I asked his opinion. He preferred MCT, so that’s what it’ll be when the materials finally arrive. Hopefully soon!

We did a civics and elections social studies unit this fall, but I think we’re going to switch to Story of the World for 2017. He has some podcasts he listens to in the social studies arena, too, which is why I haven’t been in a huge rush to switch things over from fall to spring. He has listened to several Story of the Worlds and loved them, though, so I think this will be well received. We also intend to work on Mapping the World by Heart, but one of my challenges has been having too much to plan.  In an ideal world, I’d have tons of time to plan everything from scratch, which was what I intended to do with MTWBH–I wanted to use it as a spine/outline and source our own things to build around it so we had an overview of the world and its cultures. But in this world, the one in which I have three kids, a traveling husband, and am a first-year homeschooler? I can’t do that AND language arts AND art AND health AND life skills AND do all of that for two other kids besides, or at least as much as a 3 and 5 year old need.

Before Christmas we were doing Science Mysteries, but that was mostly my placeholder to use while we figured out the basics of our day. I got a series called Exploring the Building Blocks of Science to use this year, and so far, so good! He’s also going through the BBC Life tv series that’s available on Amazon and is finding that really fascinating!

There’s more, but those are the biggest chunks. Probably the best thing I did was create a daily schedule. We had one before, but it wasn’t written out in any sort of detail since we started each day with a morning meeting. Once our meeting was over, we’d split up and go about our various tasks. I found this wasn’t working, though, so we rearranged and now Gabe starts with some independent work and then we have our morning meeting around 11:00. After lunch, he finishes any independent work and we cover any guided work that needs to be done. So far, this schedule is working for us much better!

With the little kids, I’d started Five in a Row, and I like the idea of the program but I’m not crazy about the book choices. I swear I’m the only person in the world who says this; people seem to rave about the book choices! But they just don’t scratch my itch as far as children’s literature goes. The littles don’t need to be doing anything particularly academic right now, anyway, so I’ve just let that go and try to do some singing and reading on our carpets. I’ll have to be more purposeful next year with Isla, but for now it seemed like something we didn’t need to force.

So that’s January. Here’s hoping 2017 is a little less chaotic from here on!

PS…a little side note. I intend to change my social media names coming up here, so just thought I’d give a heads-up. 🙂

2016 Decision Superlatives

image

(‘cuz it’s weird. and it makes me laugh.)

So…2016…that was weird, eh?

I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about how to encapsulate 2016, and I’ve got nothing. It was weird in our country. It was weird in the world. Our weather was weird. There was the zoo/Harambe thing. Kim Kardashian’s robbery. And, you guys! The Queen did not go to Christmas! I could go on, but I’m guessing you get the point because the general consensus I’m hearing out “there” is that it was pretty weird for everyone, not just me.

I don’t like to be all “good-riddancy,” though, because it’s not like everything happened to me. I had lots of opportunities to exercise my own sense of agency to create a future of my choosing. Rather than playing the victim card, I decided the best way for me to wrap up 2016 would be a critical review of the major decisions I made throughout the year. Which sounds entirely the opposite of riveting, but I promise it won’t be wholly revolting. Think more along the lines of “Senior Superlatives” than Public Television political analysis.

So here they are…my best and worst (and everything in betweens) decisions of 2016:

most fun decision || starting a bullet journal. For those of you who think I’m talking about firearm bullets, I’m not. 😉 You can read more here. It’s a fun decision for me because I like making lists and charts and I like doodles, but it’s also fun because it means I have a system in which to offload all the clutter in my head and get it organized so I can act on it. I’ve tried to be a planner person, and I’m not. The predefined pages and spaces just don’t suit me. I’ve tried to be an app person, and I’m not that, either. The physical act of writing does something in my brain that isn’t replicated by punching touchscreen keys. This has been my favorite solution by far, and the one I’ve stuck with the longest, too.

image

biggest risk that paid off || deciding to homeschool Gabe. Oh my gosh, was this ever a gamble! Although I prepped all spring and summer, we didnt pull the final trigger until the last possible moment (i.e. we didn’t withdraw him from public school), and making that phonecall was positively terrifying. Because of the Wisconsin school system  rules, we’d been able to enroll him in a school that wasn’t in our own district. However, withdrawing him meant he lost his place permanently and if we wanted to go back, we’d have to reapply to the lottery system.  I cried the first week of school thinking about what we’d done. But it didn’t take long to settle into a comfortable rhythm, and I’ve seen such an increase in joy and peace in our family. It’s hard, hard work and I’m not sure homeschooling is the perfect solution (or the forever solution) for our issues, but it was a good choice for now, and it feels good to say that because I truly wasn’t sure I’d get to the end of 2016 feeling that way.

biggest risk that didn’t pay off || taking a low-interest loan to pay off some higher interest debt. I mean, that’s not bad in and of itself, but we’d decided to take it for a shorter term making our payments more aggressive. A few months later, I unexpectedly lost my job. Globalization…cheaper labor…<wah wah> The job loss actually ended up being an okay thing for me. For one–and a huge thing at that–I get so much more sleep. I am way less crazy and cranky and zombie-ish.  For another, homeschooling during the day and working in the evenings meant no time was my own, even just to read a book or catch up on a house project. But it was hard to lose the monthly income, especially in light of how we had structured our finances earlier in the year

biggest regret || this is a toss-up for me. It’s either writing or photography, both of which I hardly did at all in 2016. When I look back at the stories I recorded and the pictures I took of Gabe when he was a preschooler, I’m sad that I don’t have the same level of detail for Isla and Jude.

most surprising decision || I mean, it’s not totally surprising; it’s more surprising in the sense that we’d been talking about it for 12 years and we finally got around to doing it! And by “it,” I mean we bought a new mattress! We knew we needed one when Gabe was born because he’d lay beside me in bed and roll to the center on his own, long before he was ever capable of rolling over independently. After copious hours of (probably needless) research, we settled on a Tuft and Needle, and MY BED IS SO COMFY!!! And better yet, MY BACK HURTS SO MUCH LESS!!! I can’t speak for how it compares to other mattresses on the market, but when I compare it to a 16 year old mattress that was 12 years past its prime, it is a huge win!

image

overall worst decision || wearing pyjamas too much. I know…it sounds lame. But there was a stretch in December where Tahd was gone for 2 weeks, and I think I got dressed less than 5 times. <insert blushing emoji here> When Gabe was little, I got dressed every day. In fact, that was one of the earliest lessons I recall learning about motherhood. Gabe wasn’t even a month old and Tahd had come home from work for lunch to find an anxious, crying ball of chaos–me, not the baby. Looking at me in my bedhead and bathrobe he pressed me, “Go take a shower. You’ll feel a hundred times better if you do!” He spoke truth then, and it’s still true now. If I run around in my PJs all day, I can hardly get out of my own way and I get nothing done. There’s something about getting myself ready for the day (even if it doesn’t happen until after lunch) that strikes a much better tone in my mind. I need to do that more often in 2017. Which also may mean I need to stay more on top of the laundry situation, but I digress…

image

overall best decision || attending Making Things Happen. It’s quite an investment and I’d bought my ticket before I lost my job, which was a good thing because I never would have purchased the ticket had I known what was coming down the pike. But I’m so, so glad I did. I went to the October conference and have been trying to write a post since then about my experience, but the words elude me. Something happened down deep inside me, but I’m still not exactly sure what it was. All I can say is it was transformative, and the investment of that weekend still feeds my soul three months later. I’d love to go again this fall.

 

So that’s me and 2016. I guess we’ll see where 2017 takes me!

The Stockings Were Hung

image

I’ve had it out for two weeks now, the red-and-green box declaring “Christmas” for all who step foot into our living room. Lights hang in our windows and our Christmas tree stands unashamedly, flocked and glittered and festooned with trinkets–this one from our first year of marriage, that one made by Tahd’s dad, this one from a coastal trip my mother and I shared, and so on. No one could rightly say we’re not in the Christmas spirit. But that red and green box? I just haven’t done it yet.

Because…the stockings.

Most of the time, I’m a busy mother of 3 kids, just clamoring to keep enough ahead of the chaos that it doesn’t overtake me. But there are certain things, certain places–the grocery store, for one; walking around at the state fair; Christmas concerts and nativities; the baby and toy aisles of Target–that produce a disproportionate emotional response in me that reminds me this is not who I’ve always been, and this is not who I thought I’d get to be.

The stockings are another one of those things.

I’ve been feeling especially tender this year. It’s hard to even write about this, and every time I sit down to the blinking cursor I’m surprised anew at how much I want to cocoon. Infertility was so hard. Miscarrying Mara broke my heart. After more than half a decade, I guess I just assumed I’d be okay. Because…well…I am okay. But I’m also not, too. There’s still healing, there are still layers, and there are still tears.

So the stockings.

Actually, I’ve written about them before. This is what I said…

“Six months after our failed IVF with no hope to do it again and little more than a flicker of hope of expanding our family, waves of heartache washed over me while I hung our three red and green velvet Pottery Barn stockings on our mantle in 2009.  This, I thought, is what Christmases are destined to be like for us forever…

Quiet.  Small.  Lonely.

No full mantles of stockings.  No siblings conspiring with each other to get Dad and Mom out of bed earlier on Christmas morning. Years later, no grandchildren eager to visit their cousins at Grandma’s house.  No eager waiting for housefuls of family to arrive for the holidays.

I tried to comfort myself with thoughts that three could be just as fun as a houseful in a different way, but my heart still whispered of the void I felt from our infertility and the family I’d hoped to build.

I could never have imagined that four years from then I’d be hanging six stockings on our mantle, hearts and arms overflowing with love and hope and babies.”

02

Once again, my heart is overflowing this year. I’m profoundly grateful for the gift of these children, this family. I think it’s maybe more tender this year because we’re done. My years of bearing and nursing and baby-wearing and cosleeping are now glimmers from the past. But for divine accident, I look at those experiences in retrospect, not on the horizon. And I’ve noticed I’m forgetting…the smell of their skin, the feel of their peach fuzz, the sound of their first coos, the way they nestled perfectly into the tender place where my neck meets my shoulder, and so much more.

I watched an Instagram story today of a 2-month-old baby cooing adoringly at her mother and remembered, My babies used to do that! I adored those little early voices, how we’d reach that magical space between alert and overtired in which they became cam and would “talk” to me and I would marvel over the “stories” they’d tell.  “Oh, really?” I’d murmur back. “Tell me more! Tell Mama all about it!”

But I’d forgotten about those treasures until I saw Baby Adelaide talking to her mama. I’d forgotten one of my very favorite things.  And if all goes according to plan, the opportunity to do that with my own baby will never present itself again.  The distance between those days and my present will only increase. How much more will I forget?

The stuff of magic right now is when my kids play together, a rarity on most days and, I’m told, the holy grail for most families with more than one child. But it happened today, and I’ve been trying to have the presence to notice and enjoy my life as it happens, not just in retrospect. Onions and garlic popped on the stove while Josh Groban crooned to me over my computer speakers and laughter spilled over into the kitchen from the living room.

This is it! This is it! This is what I dreamed of and longed for! I thought, and I grabbed my phone for a short exercise in a little memory-keeping.

I know now how easy it is for me to forget these things, the very things I longed for and dreamed of when our arms were empty and our hearts were sad. The normal things, the regular things, they are treasures–treasures that are easy to miss when I’m distracted stirring onions and wishing for Daddy to get home and bedtime to come quickly.  (Which isn’t a judgment so much as a reality. Sometimes, just surviving the day is the best that can be had. But not always. I can do more than just survive.)

Tomorrow, we’re putting up the stockings, the final element of our living room Christmas decor. Our mantle will be complete, and our family is, too, even though I don’t feel right about saying it with such certainty.  I think somewhere inside, I’ll always be the girl  whose ovaries hurt at the sight of a swaddled newborn or the sound of their bleating cries and asks her cautious husband for just one more baby.

But I’ll also be the woman who remembers that this precise moment–even the moments with chaos or mess or dischord or imperfection–are precious and beautiful because they are real and were yearned for, and that I am still learning and growing and hoping and becoming as I enter this new season of life.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...