Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mind Over Matter

Photo Credit: Tree Porn
Ain't that the truth! We've lived in Indiana for over a year and a half and I still miss the trees, rivers, rocks, waterfalls and ocean. Sigh...

At what point does a person truly find beauty in the place they're in?

I'm attempting to keep an open heart toward this place they call the Midwest; an open heart toward beauty, simplicity and good times.

Still waiting. Not convinced this is it.

In my waiting I will make the most of the relationships I'm building, the life we have have here and the home we adore.

Sure the land is flat, brown, boring... but there is good everywhere, right? I keep telling myself this... and will try to convince my mind and heart of this very thing as long as it takes.

Pray for me. Because seriously, you guys... it's rough out here.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

At the end of the day, we're all enough.

It's Friday (started this on Friday...)  and like most, I'm attempting to get through the final day of the week. My body resisted climbing out of bed this morning and I found myself worn out from being "on point" all week (let's be honest... I was never on point at any point this week).  Fridays are like, "If I can just make it through one more day..."

Ironically, with Matt's schedule lately, it's been endless days of "if I can just get through one more day..." 

At points, I recognize survival is the only goal for the day, the week and often, the month. Get through it. Meals, clothing, tidy house, school work, few social obligations.... do it all over again. It can feel mind-numbing and often incredibly isolating. The monotonous day in and day out of a noble motherhood experience, and yet... there is always someone, somewhere telling me I should be doing more.

This is a trap; the feeling of needing to do more. I fall into it daily.

I'm told I should be doing more situps to achieve that flat stomach. I should be doing more meditation to give the world more of an open heart. I should be reading the Bible more often, to enrich my spirit. I should be praying for my husband, my child, my family, my friends, my pastor, my neighbors, my church, my kids' friends, their families.... I should be eating healthier food. I should be reading more self-help books. I should be reading more fiction! Dangit, I should start a book club. I should go for a run, because nothing is healthier than a strong heart and cellulite-free thighs. I should be participating in a women's club. 

This is just the tip of the iceburg... I could name 100 more things I should be doing as a mother, a teacher, a wife and as a friend. The list often feels endless.

If I'm being honest, I've attempted to imagine accomplishing all of those things I'm told are good, and right and noble. Daily, I beat myself up for not completing my mental to-do list and monthly I recount all the failures I've stacked against myself. Annually, I look back and see only the "important" things I didn't do... the goals I didn't achieve.

This horribly destructive pattern is tearing me apart, and I can bet I'm not the only one out there trying to keep up. 

What if I laid down all the stuff that doesn't really matter? What if I focused on the things that do matter? Stuff like, playing with my kid and laughing with my husband. Creating wholesome meals that are tried and true...nothing fancy or over-the-top expensive. What if I focused on my child's character building through relationship, instead of pushing memory verses on him daily? What if I accepted myself the way I am, and then learned to love myself... instead of believing I should be firmer, thinner, prettier...smarter?

Sigh... deep breaths and let's take a minute to think about all the expectations we set for ourselves.... and then imagine how many of those expectations really matter to us. Like, REALLY matter.

I am trying to let go of all the obligitory expectations (it's a slow process, mind you), and as I do so I am realizing it becomes easier for me to see evidence of the things I am doing right. Clearing the air allows me to see where my real values lie... and then, in turn, I am able to invest in those things that matter to me the most. Ignoring the expecations the world dumps in my lap, gives me head space to foster and nurture the values we hold most dear to in our own family. 

It's a daily battle to simplify, especially when I've been in my head for years. Trying to be better is often a trap that is measured against the impossible, and though it is noble and right to want to improve on ourselves, we have to accept that we can only do so much. 

Instead of keeping up, I'd like to thrive. If thriving means only doing a few things a day or setting smalls goals that are truly acheivable for the time of life I'm in, then I'm on board. I'm tired of feeling like I'm not enough, I'm not accomplishing enough, and I'm not good enough. At the end of the day, we're all enough. We have only ourselves to give... and that, my friends is enough.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith. This is not from yourselves, but a gift from God; not by works, so that no one can boast.
-Ephesians 2:8

Friday, January 30, 2015

Do The Work and Find A Therapist

Photo: Yumi Kim

January is by far my least favorite month of the year. Some would think it's great... starting over, fresh beginnings, and nothing to plan for. For me, it's bleak.

This particular January has been a rough one. I've come to accept the fact that I cannot manage my depression on my own. It's a day to day basis, and frankly I've had more bad days than good ones the past six weeks... or the past year... or maybe my entire life? It's all in question right now.

Christmas was beautiful... my parents came to Muncie, and we celebrated in such meaningful ways. Togetherness is something that always touches my heart, and having them here for a couple weeks was an incredible gift!

In spite of the festivities, I still had this cloud of grey over my heart. It seems, I cannot remember a time when I was genuinely happy, or light-hearted. It seems everything is weighted or heavy-laden... tainted with some kind of sadness. I am unable to truly be free. At times, I've felt this happiness people speak of, but just as I seem to get a grip, it is lost again.

I am unsure why I'm sharing this.

This morning I did the easy thing... I lost it on my husband. Just ugly crying, slinging judgement, accusations, resentment, blame... all of the ugly came pouring out. Everything I've fought years to learn to control came tumbling out. There was no hiding everything that has been my heart. I caught a glimpse of myself and was immediately ashamed of how far I've let myself go. How far I've slid from the woman I know I really am.

This is where guilt, shame and embarassment reside. We're all very familiar with one another... they and I.  

After Matt left for work, I did my own work and found a therapist. The sense of relief was slight, but it was there. 

Right now the tears are partially for my brokeness, but mostly for grace. I've felt lost, but truly in my heart I know I am never lost. I am known, loved and wanted. I know this, but I don't feel it. I don't know why, but I'm rewarded with an incredibly patient husband, and friendships with whom I can be honest.

I look at others and often wonder: How are they so free?

Monday will be a step in the right direction... a step toward healing. Not just temporary healing, but life-changing, mending the broken pieces, becoming whole again, healing...freedom. 


Monday, November 10, 2014

The Freedom Of Homeschool

Waking up this morning, I realized it's November! I mean, I knew it was November... but whoa! It IS November and that means Winter, The Holidays, snow, cold weather, cookies, crafting, cabin-fever and all the good things (and some unpleasant) that go along with this season!

I've sort of laid off the blog for awhile. I went through a time of not wanting to "talk." Does this ever happen to you? For me, I felt overwhelmed as I jumped into a new season of new experiences. The need to evaluate without explanation was ever-present, and as we ventured through the Fall season, I didn't have answers.

Now I'm feeling a little more clarity, and I think I want to talk about our homeschooling experience thus far.

Homeschooling with Lucas has been (for the most part) incredibly fun. Honestly, it's often the best part of our day! Lucas will ask me when we get to do "schoolwork?" This warms my heart, immensely.

That being said, homeschooling can feel a bit like a beast... tame, as long as I don't over-think things too much. There are days when I think "we should be doing more," which lead to feelings of potential failure or maybe I'm not providing all the content he needs. In my heart, I know this is a total untruth. But homeschooling can seriously be a beast!

In full honesty, I felt completely overwhelmed at the start. I knew in my heart that this was the right decision for our family; for Lucas. The longer I sought out curriculum, structure, content, and advice, the more ill-equipped I felt. If there is one thing I can suggest to all parents out there: Do not look at ALL THE BLOGS and set that as an expectation for yourself. If you didn't feel overwhelmed or completely unqualified before, you will after reading blogs and websites that tell you how to do it. Just don't.

After a couple summer months of preparing, I finally decided to not choose a curriculum set. I realized that there is no "package" made for every child and the reason I am homeschooling Lucas is to provide an education that is good for HIM. I chose a base workbook that is a suited for general Kindergarten. This would ensure Lucas is getting all the content he would learn in Kindergarten classroom (it's vitally important to me that he get content he would get in a "regular" classroom, in addition to what we provide at home). This workbook is the smallest part of our homeschool experience, as I build on it with other content Lucas and I are interested in (Phonics, Reading Comprehension, Art, Music, Spanish...Volcanoes!). Once I released the idea of having to shape our homeschool experience to fit into a specific curriculum, the whole thing suddently felt feasible. If curriculum matched our needs, homeschooling felt doable in our home.

This free-thinking approach to homeschooling opened my eyes (and heart) to the possibilities that lay waiting for us as a family. The weight was lifted. When people ask me what we use as a guideline in our family I say: we are a little bit Charlotte Mason, Unschooling, Classical Education, and still evolving. Essentially, I finally understood that there are very few rules (outside of the rules we set for our own home) to being a homeschool family... and that felt great!

This mentality of freedom is a concept I'm attempting to extend into other areas of my personal life at home. The bondage of "I should be doing more" is something I've lived under for years... and honestly, I continue to fail at. That feeling of failure is just the worst, and as I've ventured into homeschool territory I decided I didn't want to bring that to the table. I'm still evaluating why I often think this way, and while I ponder this way of thinking, I'm working on saying "no thanks."

As I say "no thanks" in my personal life, I'm pushing this mind-set into raising our little human too. Letting him be a child. This feels like the best gift I can give him right now. Honestly, I'm not homeschooling Lucas so that he can be the best at everything. I'm homeschooling him so he can be the best version of himself and that means he's happy, free, secure, and understands he is deeply loved.

As we continue this journey of being a family, I'm continually reminded that we are constantly learning how to serve each other. Lucas will continue to learn how to be a human, and as his mother I will continue to evaluate how to teach, shape, and offer life-lessons. No two days look the same, nor should they. As I continue to learn how to educate my child, I too am learning more about myself. It's a great feeling!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Here's to September in Indiana.

Oh August! Where have you gone!? 

The past month seems to have just flown by... I blinked and there it went. We are fully immersed in September, and there is a faint waft of Fall in the air. Change was on the horizon and now it's fully descended upon us, whether we like it or not.

Matt has completed his first full show of the year (Next To Normal), and per usual, he was stretched thin. While accomplishing that, he finished the sound design and editing of a full length documentary (The Hatfield Project), out of Portland, Oregon. Needless to say, Matt's last week of August and first week of September were busy! The adjustment in our home has been a deep challenge, and no matter how hard I try and prepare myself for this annual transition, it still slams me down and steps all over my face.

One of this years I'll finally get the hang of it.

Lucas and I are full swing into school here at home. It's been nice to have structure in our days again. I find myself REALLY thankful we're home this year for school as we're able to enjoy this season, the weather, and various activities we have around town. Our Little Critter is full of life! He is busy, silly, and a real active learner. Most of our "lessons" come from nature walks, playing games, and moving our bodies! I find myself exhausted at the end of the day from endless talking and ceaseless movement. His wonder for life right now is continually laced with joy, excitement and eagerness. I am always having to remind myself that "it won't always be like this, so enjoy it while it is!"

School work with Keith Richards.

After we finish Math, we go for a walk and have a little fun outdoors.

I've decided to be busy this Fall, even though it goes against everything in my personal values. For Lucas we have Tap Dance (I know! I'm excited to see how this goes...), Piano Lessons, Homeschool PE, and Soccer. It's no coincindence these are all kinesthetic classes, because IS IT POSSIBLE TO WEAR OUT A FIVE YEAR OLD!? Some days I wonder...

Matt's activities are work, and then a little bit of work, and just a smidge of work.

My activities include a couple social groups. It's been my goal to try and plug into Muncie as a community... to find those pockets of people who are really loving this community into the place she's intended to be. In addition, I've recently joined a professional choir here in Muncie. The Masterworks Choral group should be a great place to meet both professional and art-inspired people who enjoy the gift of vocal performance. 

In the Winter, when it's bitter cold out, we're planning our holidays, and eating a lot of carbohydrates, we will scale it all back. Only do one or two activities and really focus on hibernating (I say this jokingly, but really... let's be serious. I'll be hibernating).

As we prepare for cooler weather, I still continue my yard and garden ventures. It seems I could be in the yard every day, all day... and still have more to do! Thankfully, I enjoy it and find it intensely relaxing. Except, the mowing half an acre with a push mower. That's tough.

Kitteh likes to spend time in the backyard too!

My Rose of Sharon continues to bloom, and as she does so, she adds so much beauty to our back yard.

This beauty is called a "resurrection lily" and just literally appeared out of nowhere! She's just as fragrant and beautiful as can be!
We have had the fortune of having an abundance of hummingbirds this summer!

So... August is gone and September is here. A lot has happened, and as I mull over my feelings, my heart, and my desires for this school year, I can't help but feel lucky. Each day slips by full of learning, gardening, house work, meals, and home-life. All these hats I wear often feel heavy. In spite of the heaviness, I see how many gifts I have and I cannot deny how fortunate I am for this time in our lives.


Saturday, August 09, 2014

Last Weekend Of Summer Break

This is the last weekend of our summer for the year. Matt starts school next week and from that point forward, every waking moment will be consumed with responsibility for things outside of our home.

Most of you know how stressful and consuming Matt's job can be, so when I say that I'm seriously grieving the loss of summer, you may understand. Things change, and having experienced this transition for nearly ten years, I know how challenging it will be.

That being said, it's been a great summer in our new home, new town (Muncie still leaves a lot to be desired) and with new friends. To be honest, it's my nature to think of all the things I wished for and haven't accomplished: camping, kayaking, fishing, hiking, exploring and such; but when I focus on what we gained this past summer, I couldn't be more thankful.

The past month has been full of naps, snacks, impromptu projects (we almost have the whole interior of our house painted!), sleeping late, thrift shopping (our favorite), eating lots of good foods, hanging with friends, gardening, and long talks of schemes and plans (my favorite!). I feel it's in these times of relaxation when our family is most whole. We don't really need "activities"... we just need togetherness.

So here we go! On to a new year of making income, creating programs, shaping young adults lives and careers, learning new things and most of all, hanging in there! Every school year is yet another opportunity to learn how to truly be partners and a family unit in the midst of life.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Summer Fun... and a Little Bit of Honesty

In spite of all the things (homesickness, sadness, grief and general malaise), this has been a great summer, thus far. We are seriously SO lucky to have such a great yard and home right now!

It brings me immense joy to see our Little Man climbing the tree, running through the sprinkler and doing laps around the yard, all the while laughing uncontrollably.

There are days (like yesterday) where I just feel ungrateful, thankless and wanting for more of the lifestyle (or a different lifestyle than we currently have) that I convince myself will supposedly make my life easier/more beautiful/fun... you name it.

But today, sitting out underneath the tree, drinking my homemade frozen strawberry lemonade (I win at some things), watching our hilariously goofy and happy child... I realize how good things are. So good.

Honesty? I am very aware of how my emotions change from day to day. I'm always very aware of how fortunate I am for grace...

Anyway... here are some funny pics of our happy little critter playing in our really big (and awesome) yard!

Ps. When I have to mow this lawn, I curse at it and sort of don't love it as much. Again, day to day... emotions and grace.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Season Of Sadness

Wandering through a season of sadness is confusing. It seems, some have wisdom and insight as to how The Creator is working in their lives in that very moment. The rest of us, when going through emotionally straining times, ask: "What is this purpose!?"

I introduced Sharon to you a couple months ago. Small recap: She seemed to have suffered from a fairly major stroke, and a few smaller strokes to follow. Early on, recovery seemed possible.

Presently, Sharon is suffering her final days with brain tumors.

Without details (because they just don't matter at this point), my friend Sharon is slipping farther and farther from us; closer and closer to The Lord.

I've put off this blog post for some time now... because how do you write eloquently, clearly, concisely when you feel deep pain in your heart? So often, our pain comes bubbling up... messy, all over the place and just... badly. There is a vain part of me that wanted to keep it "locked down", because that's just prettier.

But, now it's time.

Daily I go and visit my friend, who is currently being cared for by her husband. Every day I see Sharon's body crumbling little by little. Her speech is gone, she is incontinent, one side of her body is limp, she is unable to walk, she cannot feed herself... but when she sees me... she smiles. To see her eyes light up, brings my heart more joy than I can express in words. We hold hands, I kiss her face, massage her shoulders and speak words of assurance that "...though this time of life is hard, there is SO much good ahead of her."

It's as if that human connection of truly serving another's heart is what matters more than anything in the world.

My heart aches from loss. How easy it is for us to feel these connections are ours to keep. Rationally, I say: "This beautiful friend of mine... who loved me through a cold and dark winter... Lord, I give her to you... because, she is yours." Emotionally I say: "No... don't take her from me. She is wise, beautiful, and mine... she is mine. She is my friend and I don't want to be without her."

It is so easy for me to be selfish.

My heart... it has much to learn and it seems, that even in this blog post, I can identify one point. This connection, it's The Lord's. And I can't hold on to it forever.

As I wander through this season of sadness, I ask the Lord to bring peace, wisdom and love to everyone affected by Sharon's sudden turn toward eternity. As the Lord is close to her in this time, I pray his peace transcends all understanding (or lack thereof) and fills her heart (and ours!) with joy for what is waiting (eternity with her creator!).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This Morning Is Different

It's a fresh morning, here in Muncie. There is something wonderful about getting up early, and today my morning brings thunder, wind, and rain. As I sit here at our kitchen table, I can see our freshly cut lawn, Lucas' adorable tree swing and the leaves blowing the wind. It's as if the bright summer sun took a break and allowed the clouds to roll in... giving all of us a small reprieve from the normal morning bustle.

These are moments I am thankful for. Often in motherhood, it can feel as if I'm on a carousel. We go round and round with days that are fairly similar in fashion. After too many roundabouts, I start to feel anxious, jittery and uneasy. I begin to hear my inner thoughts saying things like "this is not fulfilling" or "I'm bored, and that means this job I'm doing is not important."

What!? I know... negative self-talk. Just stop it, right? Right.

This morning is different and it's confirmation in my heart that even nature needs a break from the mundane. That beautiful summer weather was getting real mundane (listen to me!...I can't believe what I'm saying). And it's true; no matter how beautiful my life is, I need a break sometimes. I listen to the negative, focus on my inadequacies, and somehow convince myself that things should look different.

Sure, sure, sure... we all need breaks. I can say it, and even believe myself when I say it, but when the hubs tells me to "take a break," I immediately feel guilt and all the feelings that hang out with guilt. That darn guilt! Where does it come from!? Why should I feel anything negative when I am refilling my emotional tank? Sigh...

As I grow through this motherhood gig, I've learned to push those thoughts out. Ignore them. Deny them. And then, find truth! Finding time and space in my day to fill myself with truth, goodness, energy, and life is the ONE thing I SHOULD do. Meeting with The Creator, taking a nap, stopping to write blessings, eating a popsicle WHILE sitting down, calling my sister... these are all things that fill my heart, and enable me to feel joy and continue the journey of motherhood, wife, woman, sister.... you get the idea.

Loving these two... it's my favorite thing to do.
The routine must continue, because I've committed my life to serving in love (and I'm grateful for the
opportunity), but thank God for the small (or big) moments that cause us to stop and refill ourselves with goodness. I hope this post encourages someone to stop in their day today and fill their tank a little bit; to feel the rain on their face, watch their favorite episode of Arrested Development, thank God for a few blessings, order the sweetened coffee instead of the black, eat another bowl of berries, go ahead and take that nap, call a longtime friend, go for a jog, do some crafting (and make a mess!), sing your favorite songs, read an extra chapter in your book, or kiss your spouse a little longer when they come home.

Without the little blessings, the carousel continues and we grow weak; we believe the lie that we're not enough. We miss The Creator's moments to bless and enrich our hearts, and then, we never see the blessings to praise him for; the sweet, tender moments in which we know we are deeply loved.

"Jesus fill me. The Holy Spirit is our Steady Comforter and our Ready Reminder." 
Lysa TerKeurst, Am I Messing Up My Kids

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Years of Life-Changing Adventure

I believe there are few things in life that truly change a person. Ultimately, we are all "wired" to be a certain way... and we abide by the same set of beliefs for as long as we exist. That is, until one of these life-changing situations comes into our own life.

That  chubby, lil' puppy face! Sigh...
Our life-changing situation was Lucas. Five years ago (on the 16th of July), he eventually came into this world... after a few days of labor, his nine pounds of chubby, adorableness locked eyes with me, and I knew I'd never be the same.

Lucas celebrated his fifth birthday last week and my heart is both joyous and grieved. This is the perfect description of parenthood for us. This little being of our flesh, our intellect, our spirit... he can both frustrate and bring joy in the same moment. Only a child can do this.

Lucas has taught (and continues to teach) us about patience, tolerance, flexibility, selflessness, giving, grace, laughter, the simple, the complex, sacrifice, creativity, boundaries, discipline, compassion, emotions, our deep need for a higher power and acknowledgement of The Creator, and a healthy awareness of our own selves.

These are just a few things that have changed in us. It's not gradual... the learning curve with a child is steep, as we are constantly trying to keep up with our intelligent, inquisitive, creative little creature!

And, now he's five.

Good gracious, my heart!

We celebrated Lucas with a simple day. 

Matt spent the evening of his own birthday (which is the day previous) finishing a tree swing. It's beautiful! Ropes, wooden seat, clips to remove the swing when necessary... the guy thought of everything.

I made Lucas a cake... from scratch, you guys! I'm proud, because I've never made a white cake at home, that isn't out of a box. You can stop judging me now, because seriously... I didn't know any better! But this cake... it was good. So was that butter cream frosting... I'll never do a box again.

To finish off the day, we set up the tent and had a "cookout" for dinner. We sat around the campfire, roasted hot dogs, ate watermelon, corn on the cob and had a treat of sodas to go with dinner. After s'mores, Lucas went to bed in the tent while looking at lightening bugs and the stars. It was such a fun evening!

Five years ago, this little boy changed our lives. We know we wouldn't be the people we are today if it weren't for this special little heart that chose to be in our lives. Every year we are increasingly more thankful for his spirit, and we know without a doubt, he'll continue to push us, encourage us, and change into better people. There is truly nothing... NOTHING that changes you like a child and we couldn't be more thankful for our little life-changing man.