More ‘Rona Ramblings

Last night (Good Friday), my Honey, our 3 youngest and I were gathered in front of the big screen watching Gateway’s Good Friday service online.  We had a bottle of sparkling grape juice and a fresh baguette for communion and our 14-month-old grandson, Arlo, was stumbling around the room being silly and spreading joy.  I was reminded of the meaning of “Good” Friday and the sacrifice Our Pappa God made for all of us.  Reminded of how enormous His love is for each and every one of us and what it must have been like for His devastated followers at the time, who didn’t have the luxury of knowing about the empty tomb, like we do.  When I get into that space, worship is so natural.  Adoration is only the beginning of what I am inspired to do for my Lord.

This year was exponentially different than years past, for all believers, I imagine.  I missed my church family immensely.  I look forward to my time with this precious group of sisters and brothers who share in my family’s struggles, joys, and everything in between, as we share in theirs.  I am the crazy lady with shoes off, hands raised singing at the top of my lungs in a dark corner at the back of the auditorium – and they love me just as I am.

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Typical Sunday at South (pre-rona). Photo credit: Ben Petree (thanks, Benny).

I long to empty myself out and fill up with Him during these times of musical worship, and though I’ve had private times of this at home and online times with my church these past weeks, it is a beautiful thing to gather with other followers to sing adoration to Our Father and I am longing for a return to this, knowing it will be something different and better because of the work He is doing during this season.

So, as I looked around at my beautiful husband, children and grandchild last night, I felt such gratefulness for all that I am blessed with.  The realization that we may all very well be back at church next Good Friday (God willing), gathered with our Gateway family, caused a bunch of feelings to well up and swirl around in my head and heart.  I missed our traditional church Good Friday gathering, but my family is typically all playing/singing/both at church – and not all at the same campuses, so I either attend multiple services at different campuses or go to one and feel guilty that I didn’t go to the other.  Most of the time I am sitting alone – or without the people who are related to me by blood because they are leading worship.  Don’t misunderstand, it’s this mama’s answer to prayer that her babies and Honey are serving this way, but I do, occasionally, miss the days of the row being filled with my Honey and our babies.  Last night, I got to sit in the middle of the whole bunch of them, while worshiping with music (pre-video-recorded of them!), taking communion and thanking my Pappa God for this rare moment.  I have no doubt that next year, I will be reminded of His faithfulness as I gather with my church family and be a little sad as I remember how precious Good Friday Rona 2020 was.

This evening we are going to celebrate my Honey – his bday was yesterday, but we decided that today was going to be all about him, sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter.  We’re getting wings from Pluckers and he’s choosing his favorite early release movie to watch at home – Have I mentioned movies are his love language?  I have some yummy hors d’oeuvres and Hannah will make him some popcorn (his favorite, that he only eats on very special  occasions).  Birthdays past were days filled with running to restaurants, movie theatres, and every social event available for my enneagram 7 Honey. This birthday is obviously very different, but he feels incredibly loved by the people he most loves, so last night as I looked over at him and saw tears in his eyes as he watched Caleb & Aaron “wrestling” with a giggling Arlo, I was again reminded that God is in all of this beautiful mess.

Bob Bday 2018

Tomorrow morning I will wake my children by telling them quietly that, “He is Risen,” as I have all of their lives.  (They think it’s cute to say it to me on Christmas, birthdays, etc., but I know deep down they look forward to it and they will do the same with their babies one day.  Okay, I hope they will.)  We will have baskets filled with a little less candy because there is less money to spend, but there will be a new basket because there is Arlo and that’s just more wonderful than just about anything.

 

We will gather together in our living room – with pre-recorded videotape of the 4 of them leading worship and I will be with my family, celebrating Our Risen Lord and all He blesses us with.  I will be reminded of how faithfully He walks through every season with each and every one of us.  I will not pretend that this isn’t a scary time and that we haven’t all suffered various losses through this time in history, but I will rejoice that I have a Pappa who knows what is to come and has never stopped working through all of this to make us more into the image He has for us.  I will never again have this kind of time with my Pappa, my husband, my children and my grandson.  We will all drive each other crazy, here and there, but I refuse to take this time for granted.  I will see it for the gift it is and thank Him for all of it.

Happy Easter!  He is Risen!

 

There’s a Lesson in Here, Somewhere

 

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

For a little bit I was frustrated with people whining about being stuck inside with nothing to do.  REALLY?  If we are the ones fortunate enough to be healthy, then sheltering isn’t a terrible alternative, is it?  There are plenty of things to do…               Write a letter to someone who would love to hear from you.  Call a friend or relative you should check up on or just haven’t had the time to really talk to in a while.  Do yoga – youtube has some great free ones.  Our favorite: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene .  Read a book or write one.  Cook really good food for yourself and/or your family.  Draw, paint.  If you can afford it, order books, food, paint, paper, whatever supplies you need, online or locally and have it delivered so that you can support someone trying to get through this.  If you are cooped up with family, take advantage of this.  We’ve been making yummy dinners and putting puzzles together and playing board games.  We’ve also binged a couple of shows together, but I can only do so much of that.  We’ve been purposely rotating our activities so that we don’t get bored.  We’ve gone on lots of walks and spent time in our backyard.   My favorite thing is to look online for ways to help others during this time.  There are elderly people who can’t leave their homes and they need food, medicine, books, etc.  You can pick it up and simply leave it at their door with a note of encouragement.

I spent the last several days enlarging my garden and planting all of the seeds I saved from last year.  I’ve deep cleaned a room or two – and still have several to go.  I’ve doubled my kombucha production to keep my family healthier and to share with friends and I’ve been cooking up a storm.  Although, if I’m being completely honest, I’m tired of cooking and cleaning.  It feels endless and futile, at times.

This. is. hard. 

It’s important that we take the time we need to grieve.  We can’t really move forward and do good things with a “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” mentality.  Our Pappa God wants to walk through our grief with us.  When we are honest about our pain, and we sit with it, offering it to Him, only then can we move ahead and walk in the identity and plan He has for our lives.

 

So, let’s be honest.  THIS. IS. HARD.

But, it’s been revealing to me.  I’ve seen my privilege and it’s time to take a moment – or a couple of months – and really look at how I’ve been spending my time, how I react when things get “limited.”

I did not go crazy for tp, but if I’m straight with you, I already had 12 rolls in my linen closet because I’m blessed to have a Costco membership and I usually have an abundance of tp and papertowel.  There are people who don’t have the money to stock up more than a 4-pack on payday.  We used to be in that boat, I remember.  Now, I did go a little crazy for organic food and food, in general.  My fallback is to find my security in cash and food.  When my kiddos were little, I always had much more peace when the cupboards were full and some cash was in the bank – which, as previously mentioned, happened because I was busy running up our credit cards.  When those ran low, which was more the norm than the exception, you could find my babies parked in front of the television, with me behind a closed door desperately crying out to God to “bless” me with the stuff that made me feel secure.  With that I would frantically spend the next hours trying to figure out how to get out of our financial crisis completely on my own, with no waiting on Jesus to be found.

So, I found out a couple of weeks ago that the tendency to rest a bit in my full cupboards isn’t completely gone, but more than anything I have rested in my Pappa God.  It seems to me that He is telling me to get still with Him.

It feels a little like the church is very busy making sure that no one gets left feeling alone, meanwhile, maybe we could all use a little or a lot more quiet time with Our Pappa.  Perhaps, we could all use this time to get to know Him and our earthly family members in a way that we just couldn’t when the world was spinning as fast as it always does.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m using this time to reach out to my friends and extended family members.  I’m praying for them and talking to them, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Zoom meetings and the seeming panic about keeping everyone SO connected to other human beings.

I’m incredibly thankful that my church is streaming our services and I get to worship “with” my church family – MY WORD!  I have missed this.  I was in tears almost the entire service this past two Sundays because it filled me up so almost completely.  There are so many blessings in the technology available to us during this time and I appreciate that.  I appreciate all my church leadership is doing to keep us connected to each other.  It just feels like everyone and their sister or brother is doing a Bible study, a daily devo or lesson, etc. during this time and we aren’t leaving any space for The Big Guy to be heard.  I’m not so sure He wants us to keep things “as normal as possible” because I don’t think He was terribly thrilled with our old normal.  I think this may be our chance to create a new normal based on His Word and His leading and we can only do that if we get still before Him and stop all of the busy-ness.  We have to trust that He can care for His children better than any of us can.  He is faithful.  He knew this was coming and He will work through this to make things better, if we will only follow His directions.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am finding joy in this quiet.  I am feeling a shaking out that will bring a new order, closer to what He calls me to.

My husband got his last paycheck (a few days late) – last week because his (very small local) company is struggling.  I lost one of my jobs 2 weeks ago and didn’t get to work at all last week.  We have enough money in the bank for next months rent and some money for food and our next car payment.  Our son, who lives with us and is a dad, lost his job, as well.

I am not worried.  When I look back over my life, He has ALWAYS been faithful.

A L W A Y S.

I’m thankful that He has patiently and generously walked this earthly journey with me, waiting for me to trust His faithfulness.  The gratefulness for this peace I’m experiencing in areas I used to be overwhelmingly enslaved to, is a gift that I cannot fully express in mere words.

I am committed to getting quiet with my Pappa God so that I can hear His still, small voice speak truth over my life.  I so do not want to waste this time He has blessed us with – forced upon us.  I think we would be foolish to not see His hand in all of this and ask Him what He wants us to do when this season is over.

People will come from faraway places to pitch in and rebuild the Temple of God. This will confirm that God-of-the-Angel-Armies did, in fact, send me to you. All this follows as you put your minds to a life of responsive obedience to the voice of your God.  – Zechariah 6:15

 

 

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!

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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

 

Gifts

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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.

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.

 

It’s All Relative…

relative fish

 

I’ve struggled for years with feeling shame for feeling pain at the lack of everything I received when I needed everything the most.  Compared to so many others my neglect was minimal.  The emotional abuse was a blip compared to the sexual and physical abuse so many people I hold dear have dealt with as children and as adults.

There is no winner or highest achiever because it’s not a competition.  While it may seem natural to downplay one person’s trauma while contrasted to another’s seemingly deeper trauma, it all still remains trauma.  There is no rule that if you don’t reach a certain amount of awful, you have to just stuff it down.  These are our truths. 

The irony is that often we follow this lifelong martyr routine of diminishing our own pain, when we should be bringing it all out of the darkness so that we can look it right square in the eye as it begins to lose its power in the light.  The only way to turn this agony into something good is to hand it over to Our Father and do the work of facing it in the light as He calls us to do.  Finally, we are called to walk through pain with others because we are called to love like Jesus.  We are called to follow Him as He turns our ashes into beauty as we walk it out in the relationships He brings into our lives. 

Your anguish is real.  It’s good to see that without any obstruction.  Having a counselor confirm my  grief was absolutely freeing for me.  Broken parents, teachers, friends often hurt us deeply because they don’t see their brokenness.  Our charge is to see our wounds and not cover them up so that they fester, causing more pain as we soldier on.  The truly courageous choice is to do the painful, valiant work of healing our festering wounds so that we can walk in the fullness of the identity He has for each of us. 

We can wallow for a bit.  Mourning is part of this pilgrimage.  We can and should find trustworthy people to come alongside us as we do this hard work.  I’ve found some wonderful people to help me as I’ve traveled toward health.  Counseling can be so helpful.  A good 12 Step program (not just for people addicted to drugs or alcohol) can be life-changing.  I’m a big believer that EVERYONE should work through the steps and more than once.  I’ve done it twice and plan to start my third round in the near future.  It’s like a little Jesus tuneup for your emotional and spiritual health with other peeps who are just humble enough to know they need a Jesus tuneup, too.  The Destiny Project is an extraordinary retreat for women.  The men’s counterpart is called BraveHeart and I’ve heard nothing but great reviews.  Inner-healing prayer (which goes by several names and can vary a bit, depending on where the facilitator was trained) can bring exponential healing in many cases and is something I’ve done in the past and am engaging in once again.  One of the most helpful pieces in my “health toolbox” is the enneagram.  Learning about this has helped my family tremendously. 

Not everything will work for everyone.  I went to counselors that I just didn’t click with.  I didn’t do every step of the twelve perfectly.  That’s why I’m so thankful that there are so many options.  I’m grateful for people who have helped me speak my truth and didn’t shame me or compare my  pain to other people’s pain.  I spent too many years allowing satan to tell me that I was being a baby, (*See enneagram 2 and shame) so that I wouldn’t face my junk and move toward health.  I pray you decide to ask Jesus to help you bring your stuff out into the light and begin your mission toward the beautiful identity He has for you.  I pray you are protected from people who want to minimize what you’ve experienced.  Lastly, I pray you have the courage to walk through the especially painful parts of the journey, knowing there is abundant freedom along the way.

 

My “Me”

 

welcome

My “Me” without Parental influence, is on her feet, poised in a defensive stance born of too many betrayals by those she has loved deepest and hardest, prepared to defend her “self,”  yet once more, against the ugly and hurtful accusations of addiction and narcissism;

when, in the distance, the soothing, weathered voice of His daughter, shaped by the storms of betrayal coupled with the constant and unconditional love of Her Father, begins singing peace over my “Me.”  The lyrics of His daughter’s song remind my “Me” of the numerous lessons learned, the abundant growth attained, and the beautiful, bumpy, earthly sojourn in which my “Me” continually grows into His daughter.

I stand in quiet confidence.

 

Hyvää uutta vuotta!

New-Year-Pictures

I suppose that since it’s a brand new year, I should write the proverbial New Year’s Resolution blog post.  I’m one of those middle of the road peeps.  I see some value in setting a public goal because then we’re accountable to ourselves and others.  I also understand thinking that NY resolutions are silly because almost NO ONE follows through, despite wonderful and sincere intentions.  I’m kind of a “make the vow to myself quietly’ kind of girl, not saying it out loud until I’ve research this life-changing goal and worked it consistently for a short time, mostly.  If I’m afraid I won’t follow through because my flesh can be SO weak, and I really want to in my spirit, then I’ll share one-on-one with someone in my inner circle, being sure to mention how unlikely it is that I will accomplish my task.

I have all of these ideas of ways I want my life to change for the better, like most people do.  As I was pondering this recently and throughout the past year, I’ve noticed I feel scattered and a bit overwhelmed, so I’ve broken it down into categories in order to see my goals more clearly and in a less complicated fashion.

Emotionally:

I want to have healthy boundaries with some people who have hurt me on the regular over the years.  This is tough because I am a 2 (enneagram), a hard 2, and I just want to meet everyone right where they are and love them with all that I am.  When I don’t do this I feel like I’m letting God down, even though I know in my head that boundaries are healthy and I’ve spent WAY too much time standing in His way in the name of love.  In addition to this, I would love to stop caring about the opinions of people who have misrepresented or misjudged my character.  While entering my 50’s has helped dissipate much of this, occasionally, it still gets the best of me and I fantasize about the truth coming to light and having peace with those people.  I’m SO ready to be an Elsa and completely “let it go!”

Relationally:

THIS is the tough one for me right now.  My husband is such a lovely man.  Of course, he has stuff like every human being, but because of our very opposite dispositions, my pessimistic McDowell part has bit-by-bit squelched the optimistic and joyful Honey I fell in love with.  I find myself often overcompensating for my trespasses when I should simply ask for forgiveness, owning my junk and doing better because of it.  It’s awful how something can be ingrained in you from birth and decades later still wreak havoc in adult relationships.  It’s time to do better because I am capable of better, my husband deserves SO much better and my children deserve a better example.

Physically:

This is the embarrassing one.  I want to figure out why I continue to gain weight even though I am eating less food and more healthily than I ever have.  I’m exercising regularly and getting enough rest (usually), so it’s discouraging that I’m seemingly getting less healthy day-by-day.  I’ve spent an abundance of time and money on the pursuit of physical health, and while I am almost never sick and I am quite healthy, this weight gain, sudden onset of hot flashes, and lack of energy are disheartening.  My hope is that I’ll figure out what is wrong with my adrenals and/or my thyroid and I can begin a plan that will bring them back to health – and that I can do this without breaking the bank…

Social Justice:

This is a subject that is very near and dear to my Jesus-loving heart.  There is little else that brings out my passionate side like racial injustice.  However, I’ve got to confess that I am intimidated to step into this full throttle for a number of reasons.  I feel like I have little to offer as a privileged white woman.  This causes me to be terrified to say or do the wrong thing because of my ignorance or any scrap of prejudice that remains.  I don’t want to appear to think I am some kind of savior or anything obnoxious.  I want to stand by my brothers and sisters and use my voice so that we can start moving through repentance, then restitution and finally reconciliation.  I’m not sure what that looks like, yet.  I have an entire bookshelf of every suggestion my BtB group has ever mentioned and then some.  I’ve read several of them, but I need to be more intentional.  I need to stop taking advantage of my white privilege by doing the inconvenient and hard stuff even though it may seem I don’t have to.  I am His daughter, which means I do, so I will.

Financially:

My Honey and I would love to go away for a real vacation.  It has been 16 years since we’ve gone away alone together for more than a night or two – and that was in September of 2001 during the week of 9/11, as well as experiencing a hurricane on Sanibel where we were vacationing, and returning to find out one of our children had gotten into some pretty serious trouble while we were away.  We’re dreaming of a full week, all alone, somewhere we have to fly to.  If we can’t do it this year, then next year is the goal.  There are actually several other financial goals we have, but this is not our strong suit, so we’ll just leave it like this for now.

Spiritually:

I’ve been praying about my word for this year.  I’ve intentionally avoided words like “love,” “help,” “inspire,” because that’s what I’m naturally drawn to and one or two of those have been my word in past years.  Yesterday, the word “Simplify” came to me.  This is a good goal for me.  It’s one I feel I’ve been working on for many years.  It’s one of the things I tried to instill into my own children.  I have successfully simplified many areas of my life, but I can see that in my desire to accomplish some of the above goals, I have complicated my life unnecessarily.  While I believe it’s wise to read and educate oneself about God, health, finances, relationships, ultimately, I know the first place I need to turn is to Him.

I think this looks like taking each of my areas of growth and choosing ONE simple goal, just one baby step and following through.  Breaking it down based on His leading and my strengths will produce a simplicity that will bring blessings into my life and those I serve and love.

In my marriage this looks like confessing to my husband first.  The next step is unclear for me.  I think we’ll need some kind of accountability, so asking him to join me in that is a definite possibility.

Emotionally, in my relationships I will continue to pray before I put myself out there.  I will do my best to check my motives and remember that He is so much better at loving people than I could ever be.  When He sends me, I will go, but I am finally ready to stop sending myself out of guilt or my icky savior complex, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel at times.  

My Honey and I have been researching the KETO diet and we are going to give it a whirl.  A couple of months ago I bought a planner that keeps me on schedule with my magnesium protocol and that has been helping me stay on track and get back on track when I fall off now and then.  My hope is that following these plans will jumpstart my adrenals and thyroid so that my body can start taking better care of itself naturally.

My goal is to read 2 books each month about racial reconciliation.  I have started to collect children’s book by authors of color about people of color for the grandchildren I hope to have someday.  I am going to purchase 1 book every 2 months and my hope is that I will have a library that will help another generation of my family to love and appreciate all of God’s people.  I have other goals, but in the name of simplifying and succeeding, I am going to make this the first step.  I am going to bathe each book in prayer and ask Him to show me what steps I take next.

Financially…  Yep, not my strong suit.  I’ll have to get back with you about this one.

Spiritually, I am going to keep spending time with Jesus.  His Word speaks to me in life-changing ways and quiet time with Him is the best way for me to stay centered.  I made a commitment to read my Bible daily a few months ago (again) and it’s going well.  Sometimes I find myself checking the box, but more often I am slowing down and taking His Word in. I have decided to work through the 12 steps again, joining a group at my church that will keep me accountable and help me grow where He shows me I need to this time around.  I bought myself a Christmas present from Cageless Birds that was a stretch for me.  Cultivate is a series of 4 volumes that are full of writing prompts, contemplative thoughts, and encouragement for artists of all kinds – because we are ALL artists in one way or another.  I bought all 4 of them and gave one to each our 3 youngest and gave myself volume 4, “Creativity Unlocked.”  I’m intimidated and excited to see how God works through the pages to help me walk more fully in the identity He has for me.

So, I started this post a few days ago and then as I prayed and journaled I was able to simplify my proposed journey for this next year.  I feel centered and hopeful.  I’m also seasoned enough to be okay if the end doesn’t look exactly like I’m imagining at the beginning.  New Year’s Resolutions are meant to help us move forward in hope, not to discourage us because we aren’t perfect.  I pray you find your rhythm in this new year.  I pray you find grace for yourself and others.  I pray you find yourself walking in your full identity more and more as the days unfold.  It’s okay to straight up fail or stumble to any degree, and it’s okay to get up and start again in February or July or December.  It’s not okay to let perceived failure defeat you for too long.  You’re worth a lot of effort and persistence is noble.  Quitting, not so much.

Happy New Year!