2, Fix You

I am learning the sweetest lesson that I would almost swear is changing my body chemistry and slowing down the aging process.  I am simultaneously trying not to regret spending so many years not living in this truth.

So much of my struggle comes simply from being a mama, but it seems to be compounded by my 2-ness.  I have always loved to help my husband and our children “figure out” how best to navigate all kinds of difficult situations.  If any one of them is in the midst of a mini crisis, there is nothing this 2-mama loves more than being needed, and if the tangle is between any 2 or more of them, well then I’ve always felt it is my responsibility to get right in the middle and help them to understand the other person’s viewpoint so that peace and love would once again be restored in our family.

ick.

Right?!

Recently, as we have been walking through this trying season in our family, I am seeing so clearly that satan wants division and isolation among us.  In the past, this would’ve panicked me and I would be in full-on mama-2-fixit mode.  I’d convince myself because of other broken relationship history that any conflict between my children could be permanent.  I’d be on high-alert for any harsh word or action, lest left unaddressed, would sever the ties that bind us so that reconciliation was impossible. I’d force myself, my husband and our children into conversations that none of us was anywhere ready to have, thus resulting in deeper wounding all the way around.

Often I would listen to one of my lovie’s  emotional assessments of a situation, all the while getting amped up about the other lovie who was clearly in the wrong!  Then I’d confront this “other” only to find out that I was only getting one side of the story, and in the name of reconciliation, I had jumped the gun, crossing several boundaries and hurting everyone in the process.

Holy Spirit has been unconditionally patient with my insanity.  He has gently and consistently grown me in this area.  Initially, my first milestone, which was more work than I care to admit, was curbing my yelling (screaming) at my immediate family.   This is embarrassing, but the truth is, I lost my temper and turned into an insane banshee with my babies on a somewhat regular basis for more years than I care to admit right now.  This would happen for important and worthy reasons such as forgetting their schoolwork at home, not emptying the dishwasher when I asked them to, and their all time favorite:  when they would leave someone out, especially one another.  The amazing thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I went full-on banshee on anyone.  So, that’s a win.

My next goal was staying out of my grown children’s disagreements with each other and with their dad.  This was SO, SO HARD for me!!!  The interesting thing was that they asked me to do this and we all decided to make it a family rule, but when they would argue, someone would inevitably look at me and say, “Aren’t you going to say something?!  Why are you letting him/her say that without saying anything?!”  I also discovered that my children had become champion busybodies, thanks to my example, and staying out of arguments that didn’t involve them became a family goal.  So, that objective was not obtained as smoothly, but I’m grateful and proud to say that when 2 of us are having a spat and all of us are together, the other 3 stay quiet and refrain from taking sides 95% of the time. 

My latest ambition has been to stop being the fix-it girl. When my children share a challenging situation they’re dealing with, my mind is racing to think of the best solution for them.  Half the time, I’m not truly listening to what they are communicating, because I’m so busy trying to make it all better and be the hero! (insert another “ick”)

strength strong toy action figure

I’m learning I should not attempt to solve the struggles in other people’s, especially my children’s, lives.  It is perfectly acceptable, nay, preferable to stay silent, truly listen and simply ask what they need from me.  I’ve found that in actively staying focused on what is being said to me, I can more easily wade through the emotion and opinions that feel like facts to him/her.  I don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions as much as I used to and that’s a double win, imo, because people don’t get hurt by possible untruths and satan can’t use this against me like he has so much of my life.

stainless steel close wrench on spanner 

All 5 of us are NFP’s on the Myers-Briggs, so there is no shortage of the feels in our family.  Learning to keep our emotions in check has been such a blessing.  We still have tiffs and we are not terribly calm or logical when things get heated, but we stay in our lanes most all of the time now, we listen to each other in a way we never did before and the banshee is gone.  I’d say we’re winning.

board center chalk chalkboard

Organic Coconut Yogurt – Instant Pot Style

If you want naturally sweet, dairy-free, sugar-free (except for the maple syrup to feed fermentation), organic, super healthy yogurt, I’ve got an amazing recipe for you!  I’ve made this a few times now, choosing bits and pieces from other people’s recipes and suggestions, and found that this is the perfect one for me and my family.  There are only 5 ingredients (RED) and you don’t have to use the gelatin or the probiotics, if you don’t want to.  I tried to highlight (BLUE) the most important details to make this less confusing.  I was a nervous wreck the first time I made this, so I’m hoping this will be easier for you to follow and feel less intimidated than I did.  It’s very difficult to mess this up, so give it a shot!  It’s so quick and easy to prepare.  The long part is waiting for your instant pot (IP) to finish the work for you!  You can do this with a crock pot/slow cooker, a heating pad, with the light in your oven, or any way that you can keep your yogurt at a pretty consistent 100-110 degrees for 8-36 hours so that it can ferment, after you cook it on the stove top to 185 degrees to begin with.  The IP just makes the whole process much simpler:  all of the mess in one pot and no checking the temp or doing much of anything but wait once you set the time and temperature.

You’ll Need:

5 cans of Organic Coconut Milk (FULL FAT, NOT Low!) – I refrigerate (3-4 hours) or freeze (1 hour) 2 cans and drain the coconut water into a jar (to use later for anything I want, smoothies, etc.) and only use the cream from those 2 cans.   I shake the other 3 cans to combine the water and cream and use the entire contents of the 3 cans as they are.  This is important because it helps your yogurt be as smooth and creamy as possible.  

1/4 cup of Maple Syrup (pure, NO additives, and organic, if possible) – If I’m fermenting the yogurt for less than 12 hours, I don’t use the maple syrup because coconut milk has plenty of natural sugar in it and I want as little sugar in my yogurt so that my family gets only good stuff from it.  Fermentation eats the sugars so that the end product has very little to NO sugar in it.  Also, DO NOT substitute honey.  It’s bacteria will fight against the good bacteria in the yogurt and ruin your product.

*Last week I warmed/fermented our yogurt for 29 hours and it was TANGY!  With some berries and grain-free granola I can enjoy this without any sweetener, but I added 1/2 a teaspoon of stevia to my Honey’s to take the edge off.  He doesn’t love tangy like I do!

 Pour only the coconut milk and maple syrup into the IP and whisk until it is smooth.  Then hit “yogurt” until it goes to “boil,” which will heat it to about 185 degrees.  This cycle takes about 15 minutes and you do not need to cover your IP.  Try to whisk once or twice during this cycle.  When you hear the BEEP indicating that the boil cycle is over, immediately whisk in

2-3 teaspoons of UNFLAVORED GRASSFED BEEF GELATIN or 1-2 teaspoons of AGAR AGAR (I’ve never used agar agar, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, this is a great option!)

Be sure to mix this in very well, or you will end up with lumps instead of thickened yogurt.  Also, most recipes I’ve found suggest adding the gelatin after the yogurt cools to 110 degrees (see below), but in my experience the gelatin works better if you add it when the mixture is at a higher temperature.

Let the mixture cool for about an hour with the cover on top, but not locked.  Your IP will slowly lower the temp to about 110 degrees.  (I use a candy thermometer)  When it reaches this temp, take out a scoop (about 1/4 cup or so) and put it in a small bowl.  Then slowly stir in 

3-4 oz. of plain yogurt (you can use coconut, dairy milk, almond, hemp, any kind works).  Once you make your first batch, always keep out 3-4 oz. before you add anything, and you’ll always have a starter for each next batch.  I just put 4 oz. in one of these glass jars:

Image result for 4 oz. canning jars

When the two are mixed well, pour the combination back into the IP mixture and whisk until completely blended.

The final ingredient I add is:

2-3 probiotic capsules (opened and poured out, DO NOT throw the capsule in there whole!)  It’s important that you use probiotics that are not expired.

I whisk my concoction one last time and then set the timer to 24 hours or more, typically, but you can choose to set it for 8 hours (less will not ferment enough to be yogurt) or as high as 36 hours.  I may stir it once or twice during this time, but more often I just let it be.

When this cycle is finished, don’t expect it to be much thicker than when you started.  The gelatin works by heating and then cooling as does the yogurt itself.  So, it will take time to thicken as it cools and sets.  I whisk it and immediately put it in a 64 oz. glass jar, like this:

Image result for 1/2 gallon canning jars

Or 2-32 oz. jars work just as well!

**Don’t forget to put 3-4 ounces in a small glass jar for your next batch!

Now, here’s the trick…  Let it set up in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours if you want thick, rich, creamy yogurt.  If that’s not so important to you, then enjoy your yogurt after 2 or more hours in the fridge. 

Once you get the hang of this, I guarantee you will not want to eat any other yogurt!  You know exactly what is in this!  There is SO much good fat in coconut milk.  You can make yogurt with cow’s milk, as well, but we love that this recipe is completely dairy-free!  Making your own is MUCH cheaper than buying it made at the grocery store.  Last week I bought a 5 oz. container of coconut milk yogurt that is made with organic coconuts, but not completely organic.  The second ingredient was cane sugar, which I prefer not to consume and there were a few other things I wasn’t wild about, although it was pretty yummy!  It cost me $1.59!  If I multiplied that by 12.5 – a little less than how many containers my recipe makes – that would cost just under $20.00 for store bought with ingredients I can’t control.  My ingredients cost me about $12-13.00 per batch and I know exactly what I’m feeding my family!  When it’s time to enjoy this creamy yumminess, we typically add fresh fruit and grain-free granola, but you can add a fruit compote, chocolate shavings, nuts or a few drops of pure vanilla.  When it’s too tart, I just sprinkle a little stevia or monk fruit on it and stir, but any sweetener you enjoy will work.  Please leave questions or comments below.  I would love to hear about your experience with making yogurt!

Image may contain: fruit, dessert and food

Pray

grayscale photography of woman kneeling on area rug
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Your voice is at the tip of my mind

Speak to me

Is that You guiding my steps?

Doubt creeps in

Speak clearly to me

Speak louder, Father!

No

Be still

Invite quiet

Release

Open hands, heart, mind

close up of hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Clarity begins to surface

Peace falls over me

Listen

Pappa…

I hear You…

Thank You, Pappa

Amen

 

Becoming Beloved

In the midst of tribulation I am finding such joy in the smaller things that sum up my now.  I am beyond grateful for moments like this when I can contemplate what is good and how My Pappa has always and continues still to work through every season for good in my life.  Writing has always helped me to center by focusing on Him and becoming still and quiet in order to hear His voice over the noise of my racing mind that naturally falls prey to pulling myself up by the bootstraps and plunging ahead in my own “power.”

Today I met with friends, sisters, who see me and choose to trust me, hold space for me, truly love me and encourage me.  I’ve spent most of my life without this kind of agape love and I do not take this gift from My Pappa for granted.

Yesterday I worked with a family that I simply adore.  They invite me into their lives with such intimacy, sincerity and appreciation.  It is a gift to love and be loved by them.

Today I received the wall hanging for my office that I’ve been waiting for.  The office that I have longed for and is now becoming a reality.  I am sitting at my desk, looking out the window at various tree limbs against the cloud-filled sky.  Having a space where I can ponder, pray, write and contemplate, filled with things that remind me of joy is a dream come true.  Having my husband and my Caleb help me put the room together has made me giddy, at times.

40b55155-7da0-44f6-b6c4-a0858565479f-4616-000005fc0b89e01f_file

I am learning and relearning so much during this time.  I am repeatedly reminded to lean into My Pappa.  I am also reminded again, and again to trust that what I’ve instilled in my children will not lie dormant, but that they are amazing ADULT human beings who love and serve Our Pappa.  They will flounder and fall, but unlike 20-something-year-old me, they have relationship with a God that loves them without condition and earthly parents who have a relationship with that same Pappa God.

As James told us:

So, I will keep remembering to consider this season a gift.  I daily remind myself to be confident that Our Pappa is growing our faith, maturing and developing us more and more into who He made us to be, all the while being aware of how very loved and blessed we are and always have been.  

This is a great way to remember who He is:

R826

Image result for romans 8 26

Oh, Pappa, this has been a day.  One where I had expectations of savored memories in these last precious days before things begin to change in big and permanent ways, only to have nothing turn out as I imagined.  First world probs, I know, but today, to me, it matters.

I am most grateful that through all of the junk that comes at me and my precious family, we can keep pointing each other back to You.  I am always thankful, but especially in the waiting, that You are My Pappa, that You are Their Pappa and we can all rest in knowing You’ve got this and Your plan is ALWAYS so much better than ours.

So, please help me to put away my disappointment and release my injuries and self-recrimination to Your ever ready and grace-extending hands.  Thank You, Pappa,  that even though my problems may be small in the big picture, because they matter to me, they matter to You.  

Amen

Image result for romans 8 26

 

Gifts

Related image

gifts

This morning I awoke earlier than usual, which was okay because my Honey is feeling extra yucky and is playing guitar with our son, Aaron, this morning at our Central campus (church) at 7:00 a.m., so I was able to make him a nice cup of chai with coconut milk and a few drops of cinnamon oil.  I’m especially thankful for insulated cups on chilly days like this, knowing it will stay warm for him and he can sip it throughout the morning.

After he was on his way, I began making the sausage and scrambled eggs for our South campus (church) band and production teams to go along with the crockpot oatmeal my Hannah started the night before.  I delivered that and then headed home, fully committed to showering and attending a service at each campus in order to support everyone in my family.

It began to rain harder and the temps dropped about 15 degrees as I was drinking my own cup of chai, curled up in my new-to-me comfy chair, listening to a recently discovered podcast.  I began to think about some of the relationship difficulties I’ve experienced recently and what/who I am thankful for and then I decided to stay home and spend some time with My Pappa and write.  I am fully embracing the freedom in this, only struggling a smidge with the guilt of not supporting my family and playing hooky from church for no really “good” reason.

A few years ago I would’ve beat myself up for not setting a better example for my kids – and then I would’ve gone to church full of resentment, or I would’ve told my family what I was thinking about doing and someone or two would’ve tried to shame me or used it as an excuse to do the same.  I know it sounds silly to say we’ve grown because now I can play hooky from church without the guilt I used to experience, but I am thankful for the growth my family has experienced in this way and for the lessened guilt that comes with that growth.

I’m thankful for a husband and children who work at seeing me, just as I am, with flaws, scars, ugliness and sin, through the eyes of Our Pappa.  I’m more than grateful for the grace I’ve experienced as I’ve stepped out of my Stepford wife persona and revealed that I am more Eve than I allowed anyone to see for the greater portion of my adult life.

In recent years I have experienced great loss in my life, some of the people who have chosen to walk away are the ones who have given me life, known me all of my life or all of theirs.  While I’ve developed a certain peace about this as I’ve turned it over to Pappa, again and again, I still have a day or two every once in a while when I give into the grief of my relationship casualties.  I’ve never doubted, during these times, that Our Pappa is holding each of us and working everything out according to His will, so my sorrow isn’t a result of doubt or hopelessness, it is simply a lament of love and time lost.

There are times when it will sneak up on me and I don’t even realize where the melancholy comes from.  When I first feel the tug of this, I usually shove it down and try to carry on, telling myself I am fine and I don’t have a good enough reason for this drama.  That is when my Hannah almost always will ask me, “What’s wrong, Mama?”  At first my mind will spit out, “Nothing.  I’m okay.”  Almost immediately after telling that lie, I will burst into tears and say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I don’t have any good reason.  I am just so very sad.”

And the glorious beauty of my only daughter’s response is that, at no point, does she try to make it all better by minimizing my right to be sad, nor does she attempt to shame me by telling me how blessed I am and therefore not entitled to feel grief.  She almost always says, “Well, that’s okay, Mama.  Sometimes we just feel sad.  No emotion is bad, Jesus gave all of them to us.” And then she’ll ask me what I need – offering to hold me or make me a cup of tea.

Can I explain to you what a truly lovely gift this is to my wounded little girl who grew up in a family of “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “Stop being so dramatic/emotional?”  (*There is no judgement here, I fully understand my parents believed they were preparing me as best they could for the world).  We live in a culture of positivity and pushing through.  I think we are afraid if we let someone grieve too deeply, they may never come out of it.  A lot of us spend those precious, rare moments when our grieving loved one is expressing their anguish, thinking of the most profound thing to say that will end their suffering and help them to move on – and make us feel a little bit heroic, as well as a lot more comfortable.  Who in the world told us that this was loving?!  Why is it so difficult to just listen with empathy and sit in pain with the person who just handed us their hearts with such beautiful vulnerability and trust?

I think this is our culture.  I grew up seeing 30 minute shows that ended happily and miraculously resolved with someone wisely speaking into another’s situation and then everything was fixed perfectly, cue the upbeat theme song and roll credits.  I don’t recall EVER watching a television show in which one character listened to another’s woes and then simply said, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.  What do you need from me in this moment?”

When I am given permission to sit in my agony, I find myself able to invite My Pappa in to my pain, move past my reactions, into my true emotions and finally I am able to face where the original trigger came from.  This almost always results in an epiphanal moment that helps me to see why I over-reacted to a more recent event or why I was feeling such intense emotions internally that overwhelmed me or spoke extreme negativity into my heart.  This is growth and it comes by way of pain and struggle.  While, in the moment, it feels like a lot of work, discomfort and inconvenience, the rewards are healing, clarity and progression toward who He always meant for us to be.

I spent decades of my life being told, by myself and others, to push through, to stop feeling sorry for myself, to get over it.  So, I tried, with everything I had I tried to follow this advice because I thought that’s what grown-ups did and I believed I was extra flawed and self-centered for sitting in the pain of offenses or expressing strong emotions.  I did it all with a smile on my face, because that what I was taught a good woman does.  And then I began to notice that too many of the women in the generation before me were miserable, and afflicted with illnesses that I believe were a result of all of the stuffing of emotions they had done most or all of their lives.  They were largely unknown, even by their husbands, children and siblings.  I began to realize I was blindly walking the same path with my children, my husband and my family of origin.  All the while, my life was imploding.  I was imploding.  You can’t stuff sadness, anger and frustration for decades with a smile on your face and believe that it won’t find an outlet.  There’s only so much room in there, after all.  It festers inside and turns into cancer.  It finds a crack in your smile to escape, seeping out as fierce contempt.  It discovers a bitter hole in your integrity which justifies your manipulation of loved ones, which results in a loss of trust and more distance from the people you love and need most in the world.  It is much more work, a constant discomfort and inconvenient in the worst of ways, but still, this is the path I chose to stay on for much of my life, believing it to be the more noble.  This newer path began as much more work, and brought untold loss, but the freedom and reward in walking more in the identity My Pappa has for me far surpasses the struggles along the way.  Continuing on the same path would’ve kept me in “relationship” with many who I’ve lost along the way, but those were relationships that had little or no depth and certainly no grace.  I was not known, nor was I allowed to know them.  The relationships I have been left with are more precious to me than I can put into words.  They are deep and hard.  They are lovely and challenging.  They are safe and encouraging.  They are, each one, a gift to me in my sojourn here.

In this coming year, I want to be a gift to others and their journeys.  I want to listen without trying to fix.  I want to lovingly hold space for others, without pushing for resolution.  I want to try to focus on what is true before jumping to conclusions and choosing a reaction I will most assuredly regret.  And while I strive to make these things a part of who I am becoming, I want to extend grace to myself, knowing I will stumble and trip along the way because growth is worthy, hard work, but the freedom and health that comes as a result of the struggle is SO much better than the alternative.  I can’t live there anymore.

’tis the season

Christmas is so different now for my family and me than it was just a bit ago.  The first year we moved here from Michigan and we saw plastic, light-up snowmen on balmy green lawns, it was somewhat disconcerting.  It felt weird to drive to the mall to do our holiday shopping on dry streets and in short sleeves.

Now this is our normal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I LOVE living in Austin more than I can say.  The blow-up snowmen and snow globes look perfectly lovely and I don’t think twice about the owner probably having no idea what it is to build snowmen on the regular.

I’ve lost a lot since moving here.  I only have contact with one of my brothers regularly.  My parents and my other three siblings haven’t spoken to me in years.  My oldest son rarely reaches out more than to text an obligatory holiday wish a couple of times a year.  My marriage has run a triathlon or two and only slightly resembles what it used to be.  We sold our beautiful house after 10 years – 9 of which I felt imprisoned in it.

After spending far too many years in a toxic little city where my world was nearly destroyed, I am finally in a place that feels more like home than any other has.  It is smaller, older and a rental, but it is exactly where I want to be.  

When I look back on our Christmases past, especially when our kiddos were little, I remember how hard I worked to create traditions that would make our children feel special, a part of, loved and while I’m not sorry for any of it, I’m over it.  We’ve kept the ones that matter to us and we often reminisce about the matching Christmas outfits or pajamas, the huge, formal tree in our living room & the small colorful tree in the den, the trips to Bronner’s for a new ornament each year, the crazy family Christmas pictures & letters (please!),  or the debt we went into trying to “buy” a merry Christmas.  We still go to Christmas Eve service and then gather to eat obnoxious amounts of snacks (shrimp, baked goods, an amazing charcuterie board and more) while opening our gifts.  While we are all perfectly okay with others joining us on Christmas Day, the night before is ours, alone, and we protect it fiercely.  Aaron insists I still make red & green breakfast on Christmas morning after they get their stockings, always with apples, oranges and pears and more.  Hannah makes sure we watch A Christmas Story while lazing around together after breakfast and we always have a really nice, usually beef tenderloin, for dinner.  

Parts of this will change soon.  Marriages will happen, grandchildren will be born and we will adjust.  They will make new traditions for their new families and we will make new ones with our new members.  This is how it is supposed to be.

I am excited for my children as they become independent, finding their places in the world – and much sooner than I did, thank you, Pappa!   My job has been to teach them not to need me, succeeding at that is a smidge hard to accept. I am adjusting to less time, less attention, less need of me and while I am rejoicing, I am searching for my new identity, searching for my purpose.  I’ve been mostly a mama and wife since I was 22 years old, more years than not.  And I was, for the most part, pretty good at both of those things.  But, if I’m honest, I sacrificed a lot of “me” to serve my family, as most mamas do, and I’m ready to take care of me and rediscover who I am, really, this time.

As Erma Bombeck said, “When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” 

I’ve a feeling that most people reading this will think it makes no sense at all:

“Is she brokenhearted that her children are growing up and away or is she thrilled to be done taking care of so many others all of the time?”

Yes.

Mamas with empty nests will understand. 

I’m not sure I understand, yet, but I’m working on it and I’m sure I’m right where I’m supposed to be while I figure it out.

“When I thought I’d lost me,

You knew where I’d left me”

https://youtu.be/TdqenA8k_GU

 

Image result for it's never too late to discover who you really are

covenant

I was a single mama going to the University of Michigan.  It was the summer of 1988 and I had decided to take a poetry class to squeeze in some extra credits before autumn.  When I saw him for the first time, I never dreamt he would be “the one,” as I eavesdropped on his conversation with a college classmate about how his wife had left him, hiding their child and giving away all of his belongings.

Nine months later, as he was scraping the ice off of my car windows with my son’s duplo blocks, asking me to go on a date with him, I didn’t think he would capture my heart like no one had before or has since.  But five months after our first date, we were pledging our hearts and lives to each other in front of a small gathering of our families and friends.

He made me laugh.  He wrote and played me songs.  He was beautiful and smart and gentle.  He commanded the attention of almost every room he entered.  We would, on the regular, talk ALL. NIGHT. LONG.  Being married to him was like repeatedly having the best sleepover, EVER.

Most of the time.

Marriage is hard.  It’s the place I first faced how selfish and manipulative I can be.  I was really good at making that stuff look like selflessness and sacrificial martyrdom, but in recent years, I’ve had to look long and hard at my junk and be more honest about my part in the unhealthy layers of our marriage.  Marriage is where we often discover the very best and the very worst of ourselves.

I’m ofttimes saddened by our culture’s one-dimensional fixation on and celebration of longevity, or endurance in marriage.  Frequently I am told how awesome it is that we’ve been married almost 30 years, especially when we experienced infidelity and physical abuse in the earlier years of our marriage.  I’m proud of us for choosing to lock arms and stay married.  I’m incredibly grateful that Our Pappa gave us the grace, love and determination to get to this point.  BUT, the thing that has made this all worth the humiliation, exhaustion and complete brokenness of the last ten years, has been finding truth and seeing ourselves more and more as Our Pappa intended and through that journey, we continually choose each other and Him.

ruth-1-16

I don’t believe He wants us to settle for “sticking it out.”  I believe that no matter how long we’ve been married, we are to continually reach for more within ourselves and our relationships.  I believe marriage is one of His favorite vessels for character refinement.  As long as we push against Him when He wants to grow the parts of us that need growth, we will have greater strife in various areas of our lives.  When we begin to uproot those hidden “ugly” parts, satan will usually show up to discourage us, so neither road seems like a joy ride, really.

When I came to the end of myself and what could’ve easily been the end of my marriage, this old, often miscredited, quote, along with the abundance of grace my Honey generously extended to me,  spurred me on to cast off the old, comfortable, unhealthy habits in exchange for new and incredibly uncomfortable new practices.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

I’ve found that as I’ve aged, the reality of tomorrow not being promised has become much more undeniable.  I take my days less for granted than I once did and I want to make the most of the days I have left here.  I see myself stretching for who I am meant to be, willing to do the hard work of submitting to My Pappa’s desire for my purpose.  Occasionally, I struggle with the regret of time wasted in my Stepford years of the insanity (see definition above), although, ironically, as time passes, I see more and more what a waste of time all of that is and that satan is usually behind this distraction.

I’m in a season of joy in my marriage, after facing a painful growth hurdle.  My Honey still makes me laugh more than anyone, except perhaps our kiddos who have inherited his comedic genius.  He plays me songs.  He’s even more beautiful, smart and truly gentle than he ever was in our early years together.  His elevated beauty is not only outward, but deeply inward, born of brokenness and humility.  He is wise now and smart in the ways that matter, caring intensely for others beyond himself.  When I watch my big bear of a man tenderly and unashamedly interact with small children or regularly care for precious people Our Pappa puts in his path, I can’t help but love him a little more.  When he gets out of bed in the middle of the night or earlier than he planned to somehow rescue one of our beloved children, or I come home from work to find a room or two cleaned, laundry folded or dinner made because he sees this as a partnership without score-keeping, I’m pretty much the happiest girl in the world.

I’ve little doubt we will be blessed more seasons of joy and more of pain as we age.  But, the beauty of working toward personal growth in Christ is that it overflows into our marriage and every relationship, really, so when we go through the hard seasons, we are more resilient.  We are tuned into Our Pappa’s voice, so satan’s is muted or at least, muffled.  Our love for one another abides, not just putting up with or casting aside, we are enduring together, all three of us, reaching for the marriage that Our Pappa has envisioned all of these years, knowing with our endurance comes breakthrough and growth and another season of joy.

The first step is always admitting you have a problem.  It’s hard to do if you struggle with martyrdom like I have, too much of my life.  The truth is that even if it looks like you are the “good guy” in your marriage to everyone else, you aren’t.  You are wounded and broken in ways untold, and asking Our Pappa to help you heal and grow is the best way to love your husband or wife, your children, your friends, everyone else and most of all, Your Pappa.  And if you are not married or not married, yet, then I promise, you will not regret getting healthier on an emotional and spiritual level even a little bit.  Choosing to be in a relationship with Him is the most important covenant relationship you will ever enter into.  Regardless of our marital status with another human being, our covenant with Him should be just the motivation we all need to stretch with all of our might toward the goal of becoming who He calls us to be in Him.

I have an extreme fondness for trees.  Their makeup speaks to me on a spiritual level.  I don’t mean new-agey, or like I think I was a tree in another life, but I’m drawn to their beauty, especially their roots.  This is the part of the tree’s complexity that no one can see.  The roots are what supports the tree, what gives it life, health, vitality, yet they are unseen.  When my husband and I choose to humble ourselves for our marriage, for one another or for Our Pappa, our roots grow deeper, stronger and I envision them wrapping around one another, his, mine and His, forming an unbreakable cord of three.

I never imagined that I would find myself here, about to celebrate 30 years of marriage to a man I love more deeply and in ways I couldn’t understand in the beginning, now with five precious, amazing children raised because of and in spite of our parenting.  I am battle worn and bruised, but more myself than I have ever been.  I have spent more days as his bride than not; more than 10,000 days and nights as his Mrs.  I have spent almost as many days and nights following My Pappa, seeking to understand how unconditionally and deeply He cares for me, His beloved daughter.  I know full well the direction my life was headed before I entered into covenants with my husband and My Pappa.  When I remember this truth I can’t have regrets.  I know I’ve wasted not one minute, because while the pruning seasons have been painful, they are even more necessary if I am to walk more and more fully in who He has called me to be.  

 

the good stuff

HCA Hula Hut laughing

the good stuff

that rare moment when no one has anything pressing

not an appointment to go to

not an assignment due anytime soon

not a work meeting

not a repair that can’t wait

when the weather is perfect

not too chilly

not too hot

not rainy or snowing

not too windy

when the food is scrumptious

not packaged

not average

not common

when laughter is the result of deep bonds and precious memories

not forced

not fake

not bound

when the people are your tribe

not self-centered

not disengaged

not moody or pouty, no shoulder chips allowed

These are the memories that carry us through the not-nearly-as-perfect moments (nnapm) that are inevitable and sometimes horrific.  These are the moments that all of the Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat posts pretend to be.  These are the glorious memories that we pause to relive, again and again.

In the midst of these moments, I find myself wondering how my life can be this perfect, lovely and surreal, because I know full well that I’ve done nothing to deserve this heaven on earth.  Still I gladly immerse myself in the good stuff, aware that the nnapm are on their way, whether or not I deserve them, savoring each and every smell, sound, sight, taste and feeling that this blessed moment has to offer.  No camera phone needed.  No hesitation to be all in.

This is the good stuff.

Gathering Table 20 seats

Here We Go, Again

My babies are moving out soon.

Last year, in October, Hannah moved out, making our nest empty and I was ssstttrrruuugggggggggggllllliiiinnnggg for a minute.  

Then just as I was deciding this was an okay gig and I began to enjoy my clean home, inviting friends over for lunch, having dinner parties, being alone, not having to be concerned about how much food was in the house and all of that gloriousness, Aaron told me that he needed to move in with us for a bit to save some money to get a car.  Then Caleb asked if he could take the other bedroom… the one that my Honey had just put my new desk in so that I could have my own office…

I’m a mama, through and through, so, of course, they moved in with us.

Our house has SO much stuff in it now, I don’t really do any cleaning unless it’s a health hazard – like a very serious hazard, because no space.  Any. Where.  

I know I will be a little emotional mess on the day they take their things to their new place.  I’ll miss them.  All things considered, we’ve gotten along really well and when we don’t, we communicate like grown ups, which has been sublime.  I truly like our kids.  They are good people, funny, loving, honest, generous, kind, and interesting.  I’d rather spend time with them and their dad than pretty much anyone else in the whole entire anywhere.

But.

I’m SO looking forward to having my nest empty, again.  

I’m incredibly thankful that God worked things out so that I could have this last little bit mothering my babies in my home in a healthier way than I was capable of mothering them when we all were younger.  I feel like I got to know my aloof Tita in a way that I haven’t since he moved out of our home years ago amidst turmoil and mutual resentment.  I was blessed to have conversations with my sweet Enu that have healed us and helped us see each other more truly.  

It’s good.  It’s kinda like we got a second chance to do this leaving the nest thing the right way.  I know that everyone isn’t as fortunate and while I had accepted that things just happen that way when your kids move out most of the time, I am humbled that God allowed us to do this together with respect, love and healthy boundaries.

I’m also thrilled that in a month I’ll be having friends over for coffee and dinner parties, that I’ll have my house to myself and get to spend time writing in my office, and especially that my home will be much less cluttered and clean!  I sure won’t mind being able to hang with my Honey – just my Honey!

I’ll have to adjust again, so that means I’ll be sad and feel a tiny bit lost for a minute.  I’ll feel lonely when the house is quiet for too many days.  But, this time I know I’m going to be okay.  I’m more than a mama and I’m ready to get to know myself, to discover who I am now.

My nest is almost empty.

My life is full.

My heart is overflowing.

 

%d bloggers like this: