You might have to look for it

Just this morning, I wrote a blog post about enjoying joy. About appreciating the joy that is to be found around us in our lives. A few hours later I was sitting on the floor of my laundry room overwhelmed to the point of tears. Not tears of joy. These were tears of a momma who was teetering on the edge of hopelessness. Mommin’ ain’t easy. Somedays it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

So there I sat in the floor of my laundry room, surrounded by mountains of clothes (six people create a lot of dirty laundry) feeling like a big fat fraud. Where was my joy now? Didn’t I just post about how joyful life is and how all you have to do is look and find the joy? Now, to be totally transparent, I wasn’t crying about how much laundry I had to do. No, this was not about that. I will not share the details of what caused my meltdown – not because I am trying to hide my “ugly” – but out of respect for the privacy of others involved in the situation. And the situation is not really the point anyway.

The point is about joy. There are some moments where I am not naturally, organically overwhelmed with life’s joy. But that does not mean that it is not present. What it truly means is that I have lost my sight of it, while choosing to focus on the yucky stuff. My perspective shifted from being thankful for all of the good stuff, to wallowing in the muck that threatens to steal my joy. But here’s the thing….I am not at all saying that life should be rosy and rainbows every single day. I know that fact all too well. I think what I am trying to say (I’m discovering it as I type) is that even though life feels like a mess sometimes, and we as humans can feel way too caught up in the chaos, we don’t have to unpack and stay there. We can shift our perspective and choose to be happy in our circumstances. No, we don’t “fake it” and just act like everything is okay so that our friends and neighbors don’t judge us. No, we don’t bury our heads in the sand and not deal with the hard stuff because we want to dance around the house like a Disney princess. We face things, we learn to cope with things, we grow from things – all while we focus our eyes on the good stuff that we can hold on to.

I guess what all of my rambling here really means is that when you find yourself sitting on your laundry room floor crying and feeling like you just might drown – its okay. You are not alone! Just don’t camp out there too long because you might miss out on the goodness that there is out there for you!

Small group – Big love

I have always been a bit of a loner. Don’t get me wrong, I love people. I love relationships. I love friendships. But I have never been one to have a lot of close friends throughout life. There have been seasons when this has really troubled me. I would wonder if there was something wrong with me…and that’s why people didn’t really want to be my friend. I would question myself and think that maybe I was a burden to people – that I took more than I gave. The older I get as I look back, I have begun to realize that I have been the “problem” all along. I have been the reason that I have not let a lot of people in.

I have a lot of “stuff” that I have carried around with me for a very long time. I don’t share it with many people for fear that they will not like me, or I will scare them off. I think that I have been afraid that if people really knew the real me – deep down – the me with all the fears and worries. With all the needs and emotions. With all the sadness and mess, that they just wouldn’t feel like the return on the investment of a friendship with me would be enough. I guess I just thought that it was too much to let people see that I’m just a mess.

Here’s the thing though, I have found a group of like-minded, amazing people who haven’t run away just yet! What started as a group of strangers coming togethers as a Small Group from church, has turned into something so much more to me. We came together – most of us having never met – and began to share life. We shared our ups and downs. We shared our highs and lows. We prayed for great things and through losses. We have studied and laughed and cried. And now I call this group of people friends. We may not talk every day (or snapchat) but I know that we are in each other’s thoughts and prayers. I know that we are friends. I have opened myself up to them and I have shared my mess – and they stuck around!

I am so thankful for the model of community that God has provided for us in His word. I am beyond thankful for a community of believers who talk and listen and pray. I am so very grateful to have a circle of people who know me and love me still. I am so excited to continue on this journey with our small group and to continue to grow closer to them as we all grow closer to God.

I wish…

I got a message from my mom this week that shook me. One of my many cousins had passed away in his sleep. He was just a few years older than me. I hadn’t seen him in way too many years, but when I received news of his death, that didn’t matter. Steve was that one relative that everyone was drawn to. He had an amazingly quick wit and was always laughing. He included everyone in the conversation and made those around him feel special. My most vivid memories of him were the times we all spent on Granny’s farm – mostly at family reunions. Those days – oh how do I long for those days again.

We would typically start to gather at the farm on Friday night. Often there would be a bonfire with roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. When Saturday would roll around, more and more family would arrive with food and hugs and hellos. After catching up – the day would really get started. One of my favorite memories of those days was the volleyball games we played in the field between Granny’s house and the old barn. I never tired of those games. We crowded as many as we could on to each side of the “court” and everybody got a turn. Laughing and joking were as prevalent as setting and spiking during those endless games. Near the volleyball game, was the horseshoe game – most often played between the “uncles” – who could be heard jeering and bragging about whose shoe was the closest.

The only thing that would stop us from playing was when the food was ready. Table after table cut through the middle of Granny’s front yard, covered in homemade dishes that seemed to never run out. We would find a spot in the shade of the tree and sit to eat. I remember listening to stories from Granny and all of my aunts and uncles about growing up in a house with 12 kids. What I wouldn’t give to sit and listen to those stories now. As a young kid, I liked hearing them, but truly didn’t understand how special the memories of those times would become. After eating (not that it really ever stopped, as we sort of grazed for the remainder of the day) there would most certainly be music. It seemed everyone had a guitar or banjo and they all came out for our afternoon entertainment. I can still feel that music in my soul. It is who I am – who my family is.

Sitting here typing, I wish I would have spent just ONE more summer day down on Granny’s farm. I wish I would have done a better job of keeping in touch with all of my cousins. I wish more than anything that I could remember every single minute of every single reunion – every taste, every laugh, every song. I am so sad that I did not know Steve as well as an adult as I did when we were kids. Life is so precious – and so fragile. And while I am so very sad for all the time that has gone by, I am more than grateful for the beautiful memories I have.

Zach

77251012_1068918693440446_4906038921999155200_nThe oldest of my five kids is Zach. He is finishing out his senior year at Otterbein University in Columbus, Ohio. I am quite certain this is not how he envisioned his final chapter of school going. Zach played football for the Cardinals, so during the fall I got to see him every single weekend – and it made my momma heart happy. Since we have all been under a stay at home order, I have not been able to see him. Many days I wished more than anything that he was here with the rest of us – to share in all of our family time. I know that he is with his own little family – his amazing girlfriend, Katie (superhero nurse), and their dog (my granddog) Archie. I know they are safe and happy – but I sure wish they were all here with us!

I wrote a poem about Zach when he was 12 years old. While so much has changed about my “little man” in the last decade, so much still remains the same. Here are those words from his childhood.

Zach

They call him
Mr. Intensity
On the field

But it fits
Him
In every way

He is passionate
And intense
Emotional and loyal

The kind of personality
That draws a crowd
And then entertains them

He is tender
And caring when
No one is looking

He will have his
Heart broken
Many times

But it will not
Change his intense
Caring nature

He is my
Little man
Zach

Zach is now a grown man who has not lost his intense, caring nature. He has survived a few heart breaks, and has found his forever love. He set goals and accomplished them. I know in the big picture, everything will be okay. But it’s hard to know he’s missing out on the end of college the way he had it pictured – saying goodbye to friends, parties, graduation, etc. But I also know that he is going to continue to do amazing things with the life he is building. And through it all, he will always be my Zach!

It’s okay

IMG_2517When I decided to create a blog to share my writing, I promised myself that I would always do my best to be genuine with my words. Authenticity is a non-negotiable for this whole process for me. I don’t think it’s real to share just the happy highlights and keep the ugliness all to myself. Sharing a skewed view of my world seems like such a fraud and that’s not at all who or what I want to be. So…here we go. Yesterday morning I wrote about joy and how its not based on circumstances but rather it comes from God and its constant and a whole bunch of other thoughts that I do believe to be truth!

Last night by dinner time, I was on the verge of a breakdown. I am not using that phrase flippantly either. I was panicked, tight-chested, breathing heavy, sobbing, and shaking.  Swollen, puffy eyed, snot slinging, ugly crying. I had spent the entire evening worrying about anything and everything and had come up with the absolute worst-case scenario for each member of my family and myself. Yes, I was extreme catastrophizing. Where was my joy? Who was I to even create a post about being joyful in all of life? These questions led me to feeling even worse about myself…which led to more tears and feeling awful about myself. Why is this whole situation so hard for me? Why can’t I just do better, be better, live better? And the cycle continued….questions, self-loathing, tears.

This morning my perspective is a little brighter. Actually, my perspective is a little more rational. This morning, after a decent night’s sleep, two cups of strong coffee, and some allergy medicine, my thoughts are a little more clear, my emotions are a little more calm (it’s all relative), and heart is not quite so heavy. I thought back to the words my therapist spoke to me this week in our “virtual” session when I told him that I just don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job balancing everything. He asked me this question; “Have you ever done this before? Have you ever been quarantined indefinitely for a worldwide pandemic where you had to teach remotely and help your school aged kids with their schoolwork and help all five of your children navigate the fears and worries of this new normal?”  

*crickets

When I say that I hate when he goes all Jedi-mind tricks on me, I really don’t hate it because it forces me to answer the question that he and I both already know the answer to. Point made.

No, I have never done this before. No, I should not have it all together effortlessly. Yes, I should slow down, take a deep breath and allow myself some grace. Yes, we will all be okay if the school work is late, the dishes are dirty and we are wearing three-day old jammies. Today, in this moment, I am a MESS.  I do not “feel” joyful. I am bitter and angry that life is so hard right now. I am wallowing in self-pity in my unwashed, messy bunned hair. I will not stay here. I will seek my center, begin to balance and claim my calm. But for now, it’s okay.

It’s okay.

What is true about me?

What is true about me? This morning I spent some quiet time in my office trying to get my brain and my heart ready for the coming day (can’t even think about the whole week – just one day at a time). As I sat and just listened (hard for me) I just kept hearing the question “What is true about me?” As I began to ponder the question, I found that it was challenging to pen positive things about me. I had no trouble coming up with the negative aspects of myself – but I’m pretty sure that’s not why I was being asked this question. I spent the better part of an hour contemplating what I know to be true about me. More than once I was brought to tears as I wrote my truths. Why is it so hard to acknowledge the good in ourselves?

I do not know why this question was on my heart today, but I am so thankful that I followed the still, quiet voice in the early morning calm and answered. I decided to write my truths in my journal, rather than just answer in my head. Somehow, creating a written record of the things I believe are true about me, made them true. Sharing them here – well that just feels scary…but I think its another important step in this process.

So I’ll leave you with this challenge; What is true about you? Take some time (most of us have more than we know what to do with right now) and ponder this question. Really think about it. We all have our own truths. I would love to hear yours! IMG_2491

Thank you Teddy

I’ve adopted these words as my motto as I navigate this season. Last Tuesday I was told teddythat as a district we would begin online teaching/distance learning/teaching from home on that Thursday. Thirty-six hours to wrap my head around teaching my curriculum to sixty-four students in a way that I had never done before. I went into overdrive and spent some much energy trying to figure it all out that I pretty much accomplished nothing. At the beginning of every school year I make a promise to myself to do all that I can for each and every one of my students for the 180 days that I have them. And here I have been told to “teach” them from behind a computer screen. I have worked twice as many hours a day since we have been closed then I normally do when we are “in school.” I have not slept a full night. I have worried myself sick. I have eaten a whole lot of comfort food (why can’t I be the kind of worrier who can’t eat…?).

Today, I am having to slow down, take some deep breaths and accept the fact that the remaining time with my kiddos this year is just going to be different. That doesn’t mean it is “worse” – just different. And all I can do is what I can do with what I have right now. I won’t be able to share the laughs and high-fives, but I can send messages letting them know I’m here. I won’t be able to read the books to them that I had planned – with all the voices and animation, but I can record myself reading some of the stories and send them with love. All that I do is what I can, with what I have, right here where I am. And I hope that my kids know that it’s all for them! I encourage everyone reading this to do all that you can for those around you and help them through this season of panic and fear.

Much love

How I am is not Who I am.

hootieAnother gloomy morning. Gray. Rain. Swampy back yard – which means muddy paw prints everywhere in the house. Twice this morning the tears have flooded my eyes, threatening to spill over and not stop. Holed up in the house for one week. Anxiety hangs in the air – unspoken but revealed in actions and eyerolls. I am truly seeking to be a positive source for my family (and for my own well-being). Sometimes though, I’m just faking it. And sometimes that can be exhausting. I feeling…scared, worn out, overwhelmed, tired, anxious, on edge. But these are just feelings. They are currently how I am but they are not who I am.

I am human. I have fears, but I am not fearful. I have worries, but I am not worried. I have so much to constantly do, but I am not buried. Who I truly am is a child of the one true King. I am His. And even though I am feeling all of these things, He still loves me. Even though I cry over the situation, He is not disappointed in me. I am His. The power of His spirit lives in me and I am a child of God. These are the things that define me – not the things I am thinking or feeling. I have been redeemed by Him and in His eyes I am perfect. 

Sitting here in sweats, a Hootie and the Blowfish concert t-shirt, and my third (ish) day of a messy bun, I feel unworthy and broken. But soaking in His word and in prayer I am reminded that I am whole. How I am is not who I am. Resting in that right there! 

You just never know.

When I started blogging, I did so simply as a way for me to express myself. I decided that I wanted to write with complete authenticity and I wanted to write just to share my perspective on the world around me. I truly never knew if anyone else would ever read my words, but that didn’t really matter. I was doing it for me. It was my expressive outlet. Do I look at my view numbers? Yes I do. Do I worry about how high (or low) the number is? I honestly do not. But it does make me happy knowing that people are taking the time to read my ramblings.

Today made me especially happy. Today not just one, but TWO different people stopped me and shared that my words had meant something to them this week. They shared that they had read my post and that the words I wrote really hit them in the heart and made a difference to them. I was so deeply touched by this. It is hard for me to imagine that anything that I could write or share could touch someone in such a way. I was honestly humbled by the thought of it. My next thought was “What if I hadn’t shared my words? What if I had listened to that voice in my head that told (and still tells me) that I have nothing really important to say?” We all get so busy rushing around taking care of ourselves and our own full lives that we don’t take the time to encourage each other. Yes, life is busy, and yes we all have things to take care of in our own lives. But shouldn’t we all be worried about taking care of each other too? Isn’t that really what it’s all about. Sometimes, I will think something nice about someone else, but then I don’t actually say it out loud to them (weird, right? Does anyone else do this?) When I keep those thoughts to myself I miss out on speaking positivity into another person’s day. And couldn’t we all use that?

I guess my takeaway is this. Do not ever pass up the chance to share what you have on your mind and in your heart. If you have been given a gift, share it. If you have a desire in your soul, chase after it. If you feel a tug to do something out of your comfort zone, act on it. Someone out there could really need what you have. Someone could be inspired or uplifted by your actions. Someone’s day could be brightened by your words. Someone might be able to face one more day because of you…you just never know.

Choose your hard

I have a sign that hangs in my office/craft room/hideout. That sign reads “Choose your hard.” It’s a reminder to me as I try (once again) to lose weight and get myself in shape. I saw a saying once that said “Working out is hard. Being overweight is hard. Choose your hard.” That stuck with me and I thought it was a great way to think about it. But as a grow and work on myself I am learning that not everything that I’ve thought of as hard is truly hard. What I’m learning is that most of the time, things are uncomfortable, not hard. Climbing Mt. Everest…hard. Advanced Calculus…hard. Brain surgery…hard. But many of the things we say are hard to us are really just uncomfortable.

Think about it. How many times have you heard “relationships are hard”? No….not really. Relationships can be uncomfortable, but not necessarily hard. As I work through so much of the “stuff” from my past I hear myself saying over and over – “it’s just too hard.” In all honesty though, it’s just really uncomfortable to face the ugly things that I’ve kept buried so long. And none of us really like to be uncomfortable. Having conversations with people about the things that matter is really uncomfortable at times – but not hard. The craziness of raising 5 kids, chaotic schedules, outbursts, teenage hormones, undecided paths, sleep deprivation, worry, anxiety, endless laundry….ask a tired mom. It all feels so hard. But in all reality, everything that goes along with parenting is just really uncomfortable. It’s not hard to raise our kids because we love them so much and want the best for them in every way. But there are certainly many moments of “uncomfortable.”

So the sign that hangs over my desk will be changed very soon to reflect this new mindset I am working toward. Changing the way I think about the world around me will be a drastic change, and it will be uncomfortable, but it won’t be hard.