Authenticity · Faith

The Small Things

This week is my “rest” week. (If a mother can ever call any week rest while homeschooling five children). As in, I literally worked myself to getting an infection last week and now my body needs to recover. This week, I’m forced to slow down. Sleep longer. Just maintain the home, rather than improve it.

No worries, this is a welcome change. Next week the projects will resume and I will again get to create a list of sorts.

My exhaustion has me wondering if every mother is feeling the lack of mental space to keep a blog running these days, or whatever other hobbies they may have. Having my kids around 24/7 with no sport or music programs, no public school, no church events or parties for the past three months was, in some ways, a welcome break from the normally busy schedule. But if you’re slightly introverted like me, any people, even your own children whom you love will drain all energy for other things.

Is anyone else out there, like me? Completely mentally drained?

Last week I shared that I haven’t found energy for reading, writing, running or other hobbies because of projects. But with more thought, I think it’s also been draining to have my kids around without any breaks. I feel rather uninspired to write about anything.

Now if you’ve followed my blog of any amount of time, you would know that I’ve homeschooled for seven years prior to this year (this was my “break” from homeschooling year… LOL!!! But apparently I’m not allowed to stop homeschooling.) I’ve already had my kids home for much of their lives, however, this has been different. It’s that kind of situation where they have nothing else.

Just home.

Just me and their Dad.

They’re bored. I’m never bored. I’m too busy homeschooling, gardening, cooking and cleaning to feel out of sorts. But I’m trying to sympathize and hang out with them. When I’m tired of being their entertainer, I find them chores to do. And though life is slowly returning to normal, there is an unusual amount of white space on their calendar where their lives are concerned.

I’ve been spending money to help with the boredom… we renovated the bathroom, we purchased a dirt bike and a hot tub this month, plus tons of extra supplies for our pool. The hard-earned/slowly saved money was originally supposed to go to our first ever HUGE summer vacation, but since the borders are closed, we are bringing the fun home.

Someday, we will travel. This year we make the best of our situation. On the bright side, the hot tub will hopefully last us for years to come… vacations come and go so quickly.

Alright… now to deeper matters:

Yesterday, my husband asked me a question. It’s a question I’ve always hated, but I humoured him and answered it anyways.

If you were given a million dollars, what would you do with it?

I hate this question because it stirs up unhealthy pride/greed in people. I feel it in myself. Because there’s two ways to answer: I either list all the things I’ve wished for in my life but could never afford, or I act all spiritual and generously give it to those in need. I didn’t want to answer the question, and I told him so, to which he replied: “You are such a ‘Debbie-downer’, it’s just a fun question that reveals a lot about a person’s interests.”

So fine. I answered it.

  1. I want to go back to school to become a nurse.
  2. I would pay off our mortgage.
  3. I would hire someone to give me a magazine perfect yard and finish off our projects because I love to host family and friends.
  4. I would consider adopting two children (of course, HE would have to agree with that one haha).
  5. I would give 10% or more of it away, because I have found that giving brings me FAR more joy than spending money on myself.

He was surprised. He honestly thought I would travel the world. But as much as I DO like travelling, I don’t like being a tourist. Meaning, I love the places, and the people. Not so much the luxury. Whenever I am served by others, either in restaurants or on a resort, my mind wanders to the verse:

“For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

And I feel guilty. Because I know very well I’m not here on this earth to be waited on. I’m here for the very people who are serving me. To care for them. To show them kindness and bring them joy. Ultimately to show them the love of the Father.

Maybe I am a Debbie Downer.

Yet… I just want to live with purpose! And purpose means radical, right?!?

Hmm… but often, it’s not. The longer I live, the more I am learning that a fulfilling life starts with the small things. In fact, the small things are very often more important than the big things.

How do I treat those who serve me?

How do I treat my own family?

How am I talking to the people around me? With respect?

Yesterday Ryan asked me a question and I said nothing because I wanted to think about my answer for a bit. Which was very unlike me, if you know me at all. I respond first and think later. But an hour later, after I had carefully thought through my feelings and reasons for them, I responded gently, without picking a fight.

He smiled and said, “I respect that, you know. When you think about it and respond thoughtfully. Now I can understand your feelings about it and I’m good with doing things your way.”

And I’m like, “Wow! Why haven’t I done that before?!?”

So… small things. That’s what will make me a loving person. Not the big “save the world” attitude that I so often push myself to have.

A small thing: we ordered limestone to build a pad for the hot tube and pool, but my family scheduled a visit during the time I had planned to work on it. At first I found myself getting so worked up. Why did it have to be that particular day? Why not a better time? But, I took a breath and I pushed off my schedule to “window” visit my elderly grandpa. He beamed when he saw us all there. I cried half of the time. It was SO worth it.

Such a small thing, but it made the world of a difference to him.

Life Lesson: I don’t have to be everyone’s hero. I just need to love in the little moments. Pause to think before I speak. Switch my schedule around to make room for someone else’s.

THIS is true greatness.

 

 

 

Authenticity · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

Authenticity · Vulnerability

Grieving what we’ve Lost

We’ve lost some difficult things.

Today was the day we were supposed to wake up our kids in an hour and pull them mysteriously into the van. They would blink their eyes in confusion at the suitcases and surprise packages around them. We would then tell them the news:

We are going on a SURPRISE family trip!

There were packages to open along the way: a new iPad. Blank comic books. Candy and travel games.

They would scream in excitement and awe that we had surprised them. The next six days would be driving, restaurant meals, family visits, and water park rides.

BUT… today I mourn because instead, I wake up to a completely different day: Ryan’s alarm going off for work. I will wake up and make breakfast, homeschool the kids and then try to keep them joyful for the rest of the day. Surprise travel gifts and the iPad were opened a week ago, now used for school work.

My kids don’t know about the trip, thank goodness we decided to surprise them. It’s just one less disappointment they have to face.

Still, my daughter was discouraged yesterday. Deeply discouraged. As an optimist at heart, I did what I could to be upbeat and see the blessings. But mainly, I just listened because there wasn’t much to say: I am sad too.

I shared what I was sad about… I’m mourning the normalcy of life, as we all are.

I was sad, because I did my hair and makeup to go get the groceries this week. I cry, because I’m sick of people on screens. I cry, because there’s no hopeful message… just experts repeatedly saying: “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

I long for an end date. We all do.

I’m mourning family gatherings, church events, and meeting with people. I’m mourning date nights with my husband and visiting my grandparents.

I shared as we put together a puzzle.

We went on a walk, the air was crisp. She shared her heart, her tears. As we walked, she visibly brightened. The sun started setting. The fields were beautiful with the spring water glistening in them. Then we came back home and gathered the family for a drive. Picking up some drive thru iced cream and drove around until dark, looking at some of the beautiful homes people live in.

My youngest pipes up from the back: “When I grow up I will find the biggest house and choose that one.”

We laughed at the innocent comment and came home FULL. The grieving had allowed small glimpses of joy to set in. The grieving allowed us to move on.

So friends: grieve. Then keep going.

Authenticity · Depression · Faith

Waking Up on the Wrong Side… with No Coffee

This morning I woke up feeling angst.

Now, I do struggle with insomnia, but this post isn’t about grumpy mornings where I’ve literally gotten no sleep. Because last night I slept great. Probably got in an eight hour night, which for me is amazing.

I had a great day yesterday. I went to bed content and happy last night.

I woke up sour.

How does that even happen?

Cue about a dozen memes about coffee… which also doesn’t apply, because I don’t particularly love coffee. I mean… I drink it most mornings, because as of turning 30, I forced myself to become an adult.

But this morning, this particular morning, I had it in my mind to drink some coffee with my cream. Yet low and behold, it was GONE!! (Not the coffee, the CREAM) My husband finished the cream.

Now I was even more sour.

But not drinking coffee doesn’t affect me. I am not an addict. I am not an addict. I won’t admit to it. (Still grumbles inwardly about not having coffee.)

Then, to top it off, my daughter asked me a question that annoyed me. On most days it would’ve been an honest, innocent question.

But this morning my body tensed.

She asked this question just to get me mad. My irrational self thought. Why, she was probably scheming from the moment she woke up on how to make me miserable. My husband probably was doing the same.

My four boys were quietly playing downstairs.

I was angry at them. Because, it was too early for them to be playing already. Surely, they had missed doing their chores. I called them up, like a drill sergeant. “Have you boys done ALL your chores?” They nodded. I still didn’t believe them. Didn’t want to believe them. I listed the chores one by one.

Check.

Check.

Check.

Then, feeling like I needed to get them to do something, I made up a new one. They obeyed nicely. Still, I was annoyed. At everyone.

Please tell me, how does this even happen?

As the kids left for school and my husband for work, I was painfully aware that something was off with me, not them.

I went on the treadmill, because if depression has taught me anything, it’s that my body was made to move. I need it for my health. I need it for my sanity. I didn’t feel like running. So I walked. I didn’t feel like walking, so I grumbled while walking. Then I dumbly closed my eyes to pray while I walked.

Of course, I fell. I should’ve been filming the moment, as I would love to watch how stupid that looked. I’m sure that alone would’ve cured any sour feelings inside.

So… you may be wondering, what’s the point of this post? Will I give you another amazing conversation where God told me exactly why I was feeling this way and why? Some grand lesson I learnt? Some attitude change that made all things better?

No. Because there was none.

Me: God, why am I feeling this way?

God:

Nothing. Silent.

This is just as real as my good conversations with him. And you know what? Sometimes there is no good reason other than the fact that life isn’t always sunny. Sometimes the reason comes to me later. Sometimes I never figure it out. Sometimes its a day: A bad morning, waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Sometimes its a full season that lasts years. I’ve had those too. But surely as winter is cold and dark and drags on far too long… spring comes.

I’m learning to wait.

How about you? How are you doing? Are you in a good season right now? A hard one? How do you cope with the difficult days.

Christmas

Broken Angels

There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.

It all started when they caught Mother’s eye. A rare, impulse buy. All at once in that tiny moment, in that unknowing act, a progression of events was started that would eventually end in a yearly disaster.

The act of buying glass anything was foolish, she knew, for a household with not only one, but two babies. However it wasn’t that first year, nor the second, but the third when the tradition began. That third year, when there were three children.

Nevertheless a tradition was born – thee tradition was born – for every tradition must make its debut.

It was an innocent mistake, that first broken angel. A boy, a girl and a ball. One quick game of indoor catch was all it took. Of course, Mother saw it all before it actually happened, as most mother’s do. Wisdom. Foresight. Experience. Whatever it was, she called out her warning a second too late.

The inevitable crash of shattering glass. Immediate chaos, if only for a second. An overreaction of sorts. Yelling. Tiny stricken faces with regretful tears.

Finally, understanding dawns: it’s not that big a deal.

Voices soften, the room calms and Mother warns gently now: “Be careful, step away, that glass is sharp.”

Year four. Fast baby. Moving baby. Soft chubby hands grab for a sparkling figure, carelessly placed two branches too low. A single snap. A piercing scream. Mother holds baby close as little drops of red appear on the cherub’s hands. She cleans them carefully, silently. Kissing them, bandaging the wounds. Angel number two is momentarily forgotten.

When, and only when baby is safe in his crib, Mother cleans up the mess. She looks at the angel, broken in pieces and shakes her head. What a stupid move, such a thoughtless notion, to buy glass.

The fifth year, another child joins the picture. Four little children. But they can’t be blamed for broken angel number three. This one was on Daddy. Goofy Daddy. Careless Daddy. Daddy with his smiling eyes.

Mother yells again, “You careless bunch of hooligans! I only have six left!” but as she turns to get the vacuum, a smile tugs at her lips.

Three years, three angels.

Year six was quite different, for the angel broke itself. At least, that is what Mother claimed as she carefully and gently lifted the angelic piece to the tree. The halo, which held the string simply snapped and down, down, down fell the ornament as Mother gasped. The room is silent, except for the breaking angel. The shattering of glass now sounds like the chiming of a familiar childhood memory. Each piece holds its own pitch, and rings out its broken song: The sound of Christmas.

A snicker. A snort. The room hold no more tension. The family bursts into laughter. Four years in a row. One broken angel a year. No more, no less.

By the time year seven rolls around, the family of seven opens up the decoration box to find a fifth wingless angel. Had the box dropped? Had it been carelessly packed away? No one knows. But by now it’s a game. A silly little game. How will next year’s angel break?

Year eight doesn’t disappoint. Mom’s once again growing tired of the negligence. But still, she allows the laughter, pulling out the vacuum, the expression she wears is one resigned to the destiny of her fragile figures.

“I only have three left.”

The oldest child just giggles, “But Mooom, it has to break. It’s tradition!”

Year nine and ten fly by in a similar manner. There’s now eight broken angels. Never once was one shattered on purpose. But each year it happens just the same.

Finally, year eleven approaches. The Christmas tree is up. The five children are all older. Less careless.

Mama stares at that last glass angel. Something in her hopes it will break. Another part wishes it will last forever. But either way, she knows, the tradition will soon end. All traditions must have a finale. Either that or they slowly die out, forgotten forever.

A finale sounded much better.

But what? A slow smile spreads across her face.

A plan.

Christmas Day comes and the angel still holds tightly to the tree. Gently swaying there, beautifully. The family seems to momentarily forget their ridiculous ritual. Angel breaking.

They forget as they rip open boxes of paper; brightly colored paper that carpets the floor. Suddenly it happens. Mother brings out a box; a clear box with a string. To protect. To safeguard. A monument to last forever. This last angel will not break. It will be preserved.

Ooohs and Awws fill the room. The perfect finale. Mother takes the last angel and carefully places it within its cage, sticking it with care to the bottom. Savouring this precious moment, she turns to place the memory box on the tree.

A piece of discarded wrapping paper was all it took. Her foot slips, she stumbles, as if in slow motion. Her eyes grow wide as the treasure slips from her grasp. The angel and the box hang in the air. Mother hits the ground first, then all at once, it happens. As if the tradition has a mind of its own, the box hits the ground. The last angel shatters within its own shield.

First shock. And stunned silence. Impossible!

Then that magical moment. The outburst of howling, almost delirious laughter. Floor pounding, snorting and roaring type laughter. Tears rolling down each face, unable to breathe sort of laughter. Wave after wave it continues. The kind that erupts from deep inside and goes on until all sides are aching.

Finally, as all good times do, the moment ends. For the very last time, Mother cleans up. It is all as it was meant to be.

There were nine. Nine golden angels made of glass.

Now, there are memories.

Faith

Collecting My Thoughts

Sometimes writers run out of things to say.

Other times writers have lots to say but don’t quite know how to describe their thoughts… so they wait for the right words.

And then there are times when there are so many things to say that everything blurs into one big mess of thoughts… which is where I’m finding myself lately.

I have so much to write about, but over-posting often results in readers skimming through without taking the time to reflect. I want my readers to be able to actually stop and read the words!! I don’t want so much quantity in my writing that the entire point is missed! So my aim recently has been to pack more meaning into fewer words, keeping my posts at under 600 words. It’s actually been quite a good challenge for me!

Today though, I want to share my thoughts, in an unorganized sort of way. I know well-esteemed speakers suggest to focus on one thought and go deeper into it. This way, the human mind – which cannot grasp many ideas at once, can take one piece away from what you’re saying. Today I’m going to go out and do the opposite. If it’s hard for you to follow, go ahead and just take one thought to hold onto as I ramble through them. Slowly reading each thought, then stopping to consider it before moving on to the next is key.

Things on my mind recently:

1) Speaking less really does help people to listen more.

2) There’s so many people trying to be heard, maybe the best thing I can do for this generation is to stop and listen.

3) Why do people blame our technology for the busy and distracted lives we lead? The issue is and will always be the human heart.

4) Our world is beginning to hate children. This annoyance for the gems of our world is even creeping into the church. This deeply concerns me.

5) Everyone talks faith, but I can count on one hand those who are living it out.

6) In the west everyone seems to be depressed or anxious… I hear these words so often I’m sick of them. There are thousands of options to treat the symptoms, but everyone is too afraid to go and actually address the root.

7) I witness millions of miracles daily. I’m typing on one of them right now. I turn a switch and light floods the room. Amazing! Yet I don’t even notice any of it until it’s gone.

8) Friends are either honest or kind. But rare indeed are those who are both.

9) Requiring good behaviour doesn’t shape a child’s heart the right way. Only wisdom and gentle love does.

10) One joyful person is contagious, spreading lighthearted life to everyone they meet. But in the same way, a bitter person spreads their poison like a contagious disease.

11) Those consumed with talk of politics or the church are among the most unhappy people.

12) Daily time with God is more essential than food or sleep. No one seems to believe me. I’ve been told that daily devotions and prayer is an “unrealistic expectation.”

Yet I’ve done it for years because the fullness of good life advice and practical truth are found in God’s word… not in well written books or sermons. Which brings me to my last thought:

13) When God speaks, it sticks! I forget most of the sermons and books I’ve read over the years. But I’ve never forgotten a personal word from God.

Faith

Keeping my Family Together

These were my thoughts today as I reflected on the influence I have on my family:

The most sobering and shocking revelation that I’ve found in my home is that I am the heartbeat of it. When I isolate myself, when I’m upset or allow myself to become mean and uncontrolled, the rest of my family is sure to follow.

When I am in a room, the kids gather around, drinking in the conversation, the laughter, the stories I share.

When I leave, they scatter.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance that I stay present.

My joy lights up the room. My sadness darkens it. It is as if I am able to control the very atmosphere of my home with my responses to those around me.

This may just be the greatest blessing or the greatest curse a parent can discover.