Margin

I have been thinking a lot lately about the word margin. Most of us probably think of the blank space around the edges of a page when we hear that word. While my recent thoughts on that word have not really been about paper, they do have a lot to do with space. This school year has already been filled with challenges that I had not anticipated. I knew that being in a new building, teaching a new subject with a new teaching partner and more kids in my home room than I have ever had would be an adjustment, but these circumstances have all been accompanied by things that didn’t even know to expect. On top of going back to school, I am in the last month of my Principal Internship and my Master’s program. This has added hours of work and assignments to my work days. And on top of all of that, I am raising three girls (my older two are off the payroll) – two of them teenagers, managing a household and attempting to be a good wife. I point all of this out not to garner pity or to even really complain, but rather to illustrate the absolute lack of margin in my life right now. There is no blank space. And that lack of margin is taking its toll on me.

Margin is defined as “a spare amount or measure…” For me I am feeling that there is just no spare amount of time in my days. Not only that, I am feeling that there is no spare amount of ME left for anything right now. My constant busyness fills my days, but leaves me feeling empty. I know that I have to make room for those things that fill my soul and light a fire in me. I am tired. Bone tired and soul weary.

Even as I type this though, I feel a little spark. I am remembering the little things that bring me joy. Expressing myself through words. Sitting in the stillness of the morning. Hot coffee. Though they may be small things, they are in my margin. I need to cling to them and find room for them as I navigate this busy season. I encourage you to find some space in your life to do the things that make your heart happy. Find your margin.

God is within her, she will not fall

The last several months have been nothing short of pure chaos. I taught a new grade level this year, after being in 5th grade for six years I moved to 4th grade. Not a giant leap, but still new and different. Teaching through a pandemic provided so many unique challenges – but it will be a year that we will never forget. I am also at the very end of my Masters program – which has consumed so much of my time. My classwork is finished and now I am working through my six-month principal internship. When I finished my last class I felt such relief – until I officially started my internship, when I quickly realized that it was going to be much more work than I had anticipated. And of course, managing a household where six of the seven of us live is always a daunting task week to week.

Lately I have allowed ALL of this busyness to control me and it has truly robbed me of my peace and contentment. My mind is always running – especially at 3am – and I walk around in a state of exhaustion. In my frazzled state I find myself drifting back to the comparison game. I look around and it doesn’t appear to me that any of my mom friends or teacher friends are struggling with life like I am. I see their perfect family posts on instagram and my self-worth shrinks. I know that the part of other people’s lives that I see is their highlight reel – I know this logically – but I still let it get the best of me.

This weekend has been really rough on me, and last night I felt broken. At one point, through my tears, I remember saying to my husband, “I just can’t find any peace. I don’t even know what makes me happy anymore.” As I tossed and turned through the night, I kept hearing those words on repeat. When I woke up this morning, I had a bit of a confetti moment. I’ve been trying so hard to do so much on my own. No wonder everything is so hard. I am not content because I have been relying on my own strength, rather than leaning into God and relying on HIS power in me. I desperately need Him. He is the source of my contentment, my peace, and my joy. Rather than looking to others and comparing myself, I should be looking to God and seeing myself the way He sees me. I am not supposed to be able to “handle” everything on my own. I was created to be in union with my creator as I walk through life. The emptiness that I feel is a God sized gap – just waiting for me to realize it is there for Him.

Today, I am choosing God. I am going to loosen my grip on trying to control everything around me, and open my hands for what God has to give me.

My heart is confident, God. I will sing; I will sing praises with the whole of my being.

Psalm 108:1

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!