Embracing the Tears

 

tear

Lately I’ve been crying a lot. Due to some imbalances, I can’t help it… over the sock in the hallway, over the episode of Jane the Virgin, over the youtube video…

(Don’t you think Brandon’s world is just wonderful right now?!)

Here’s the thing… Crying at silly things makes me mistrust my emotions. My assumption is that my tears are (probably) unreasonable and (most likely) not actually “real.”

And it makes me feel like a crazy person.

But, recently, I decided that I was done with judging the validity of my tears. If I’m going to cry, I might as well embrace it.

And, friends, I began to see some beauty in that brokenness. Being quick to tears isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I began to see my tears as a gift.

This week I cried during worship.

I cried over a story from my son.
I cried as my children snuggled on a hotel room bed and watched a cartoon.
I cried when I saw pictures of devastating flooding in Louisiana.
I cried when I hugged my Nana.
I cried when I said goodbye to my brothers and when I saw my niece for the first time.
I cried as Eliza screamed for almost an hour on a road trip.
I cried as I looked with despair over the mounds of laundry and the mess in the living room.
I cried when my son accidentally kicked my shin.

And, with each moment, I became more comfortable with my emotions. Because some of these moments were worth stopping to feel. Some of these tears drew my attention to a moment that needed to be savored.

Sure, many of them were silly. But, as I learn to see my excessive tears as a gift, I begin to see moments that I (probably) would have missed.

I’m hopeful to gain some sanity back with some new treatments. I’m already seeing more ability to regulate my emotions.

It will be nice to not break down in tears while reading a children’s book (with my son looking at me like I’ve gone insane!)

But, honestly, I’m not ready for the tears to totally go away. I don’t want them to disappear.

They truly are a gift. And I am learning to enjoy them.

But am I enough?

 

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The past few months I have gone to sleep exhausted. It’s been one of those seasons. Every night I’ve been woken up 2-3 times. Sometimes for my baby just needing a quick pat. But, more often than not from my almost 4 yr old having night mares.

He’s scared and calls my name. I go and pat him and sing to him and pray for him. Then I get back in bed in a heap of exhaustion. And eventually, at about 5 a.m. he ends up in bed with me. I swore I’d never be that mom. But, when your child is terrified, you do what comforts them.

And, in the end, when you’re waking up every 2 hours, you do what allows you to sleep.

So, the past few months I have gone to sleep exhausted.

That is, when I’ve been able to go to sleep.

But I haven’t been able to fall asleep. Despite my exhaustion, my mind and my body are conspiring against me, and sleep does not come. I lay there for 2 hours awake. Thinking, imagining, praying…

(Disclaimer: Before anyone offers any medical advice, there are valid, medical reasons I can’t fall asleep. My doctor knows. We’re working on it. 😉 )

In these painfully quiet, frustrating, and exhausting moments a question circles my mind.

Can I do this? Am I really enough? 

Jamie has needed me more lately. He’s needed more attention. He’s needed more affection. He’s needed more time. He’s needed more discipline. More boundaries. More snuggles. More eye contact. More mercy. More compassion.

He’s needed more me. 

And I fail continuously. I fail to see the need behind the tantrum. I fail to see the desire for connection behind the disobedience. I fail to hand out mercy as much as I hand out consequences.

I fail. And, as I lay in bed for a few hours every night, tears fill my eyes and I wonder if I have the strength. If I can be all that he needs.

Am I really enough? 

Until last night.

Last night, I got in bed. I laid awake. I cried. I got discouraged.

And then I heard another voice. A voice that had been missing. A voice that I desperately needed.

A voice that has felt distant, separate, far away.  

A still, small voice that simple said:

I see you. 

And as I got up early with my alarm, earlier than my tired body wanted, it echoed.

I see you. 

As I sat under a blanket and drank my coffee…

I see you. 

As I read my Bible (we’re in Leviticus these days)

I see you. 

And, as I heard the pitter patter of little feet come down the hallway…

I see you. 

Friends, I don’t have some grand treatise this morning on motherhood. No advice for those who are in similarly exhausting seasons. No grand theologies to carry us through.

Just this simple truth: Our God sees us. He knows us. He’s with us. He’s in the messy. He’s in the complicated. He’s with the sleep deprived and the well rest. The encouraged and discouraged. He’s there in the mundane and the knock your socks off.

If I’m honest, there’s a lot of life right now that has me questioning whether I am enough. It’s not just motherhood. And I need this truth more than ever.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 

He sees us.

(And He also gave us coffee. 😉

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A New Dream for the New Year…Kind of.

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It’s January 10th and I’ve been struggling with how to process this new year. In so many ways I am eager, excited, encouraged and energized for the coming year. I sense God’s leading in ways I have never before. I see his steps for me more clearly than I have known before.

But, if I’m honest friends… I’m exhausted. Absolutely, exhausted. Tired…could fall asleep at any moment…just. beat.

(Parenting young children can do that to you.)

But it’s not just the kids. When we first moved to Conway I wrote about how I was trying to learn to live fully and completely here. Brandon and I felt convicted to stop making plans of what our future could hold and start living fully and completely in the now that God has given us.

And we have begun to see God’s hand in amazing ways.

But, while God called us to live fully and completely here. He hasn’t let us settle. He keeps directing our attention to something else. Something beyond our imagination, something we can’t even see yet. I believe God has given us a godly restlessness. A restlessness which allows us to both live fully here and ready for what’s next. A restlessness that, if we’re paying attention, points us toward the Giver of all good things.

But, a restlessness, that’s kind of exhausting.

 

2015-12-31 10.10.35Brandon and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary on December 31. For maybe only the second time in our marriage, it was just the two of us. It seemed appropriate for us to dream about what our lives would look like 10 years from now.

And, honestly, neither of us had much of anything to say.

And, that sounds terribly unromantic and depressing. But, I’m not saying we are unhappy. Or that we don’t have ambitions and dreams.

No, Brandon and I are wonderfully content and happy with each other.

And we have more plans for our future than most people, I think. (Planning the future is my love language. )

But, here’s the thing…

We could never have dreamed what we are doing now. We could never have written how our family would come together. We couldn’t have planned the course the last 10 years would take.

No list could have gotten us here. No strategic plan could have articulated the reality that we live in.

In fact, as we looked back over the past 10 years we laughed that almost every single one of our plans didn’t work out the way we planned it.

So, moving into this new year. Moving into our next decade together. We’re not making many plans.

Now, we’re continuing to study. We’re continuing to minister. We’re continuing to enrich. To professionally develop. To be mentored and to mentor others. We’re working to grow in our faith, to make plans for our children. We’re continuing to budget, to schedule, to discern, to parent… We’re going to Europe in June…

But, we have no idea where the next year, 5 years or 10 years will lead. We just don’t know. And, we’re learning to be okay with that.

We’re learning to move forward with our hands open. We’re learning to trust when things don’t look how we wanted. We’re learning to plan expectantly for the unexpected. To dream for that which we could never imagine.

And, we’re still learning how that works. But, each and every year, we are loving it more and more.

Happy New Year, friends.

What’s Next?

For the first 7 and 1/2 years of our marriage, Brandon and I were consistently waiting on the next thing.

It wasn’t because we were discontent. No, we were in grad school and trying to start a family. And with every degree that one of us earned we discussed our next step. And with every decision made about infertility measures or adoption pursuits, we learned to wait for the next thing.

So, while we were fully invested in the people in our midst (and in our church family where I served as Children’s Minister), we were also consistently applying for and pursuing multiple opportunities.

And we were waiting. At our best, it was expectant waiting. On hard days, it maybe sounded like frustration. And at our worst, discontentment ruled the day.

But, overall we didn’t mind so much. We loved where we were and we loved dreaming about what was to come.

Then “it” finally happened. In January of 2013, we felt like a change was imminent for our family. And, in what can only be described as a “God thing,” we felt a very clear leading to move to Conway, Arkansas. We say it was a God-thing because I suggested in. And it was fairly unlikely that I would have suggested a move to Arkansas on my own. (Nothing against the state, but it wasn’t terribly familiar to me).

And, having grown up in the state, Brandon had never felt a deep desire to return. Don’t get me wrong, he loves his home state and missed it. But he had never imagined himself moving back.

Simply put, Arkansas had never been a part of the plan.

So we began to prepare for a big move. That July, we packed up our belongings and drove 12 hours to our new home. I, with the toddler (who screamed the whole way) and Brandon, in the moving truck with the cat.

Within a few months Brandon had gotten a new & incredible job, we bought our first house, we bought a car, we reconnected with old friends and are making new ones. I taught my first college course and picked up some writing jobs. Brandon planted a garden. And now we’ve been here almost a year. And in that time, so many of our dreams have come to fruition.

But you know what? It’s hard to shake that whole, “What’s next?” feeling.

So we are learning to live in this new place fully invested. Honestly, we don’t know what the next 5, 10 or 20 years will hold. But we do know that God has called us here for this season. And part of living fully where we have been planted is letting the “What’s next?” question remained unanswered for a little while.

And, that’s hard. But also good.

Speaking for myself, it’s not totally natural. But I’m learning. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning.

For this Season of Advent…

Someone gave me a lovely gift: Sanctuary of the Soul by Richard Foster. It’s just perfect for this time of Advent and this time of my life. I thought I would share with you a poem he quotes at the beginning of Part 1. May this encourage your hearts, just as it has encouraged mine.

Teach me to stop and listen,
Teach me to center down.
Teach me the use of silence,
Teach me where peace is found.

Teach me to hear Your calling,
Teach me to search Your Word.
Teach me to hear in silence,
Things I have never heard.

Teach me to be collected,
Teach me to be in tune,
Teach me to be directed,
Silence will end so soon.

Then when it’s time for moving,
Grant it that I might bring,
To every day and moment,
Peace from a silent spring.

By Ken Medema.

What are you longing for?

Okay, so I’ve been a little absent on the blog lately. Friends, I love writing blog posts, but lately I’ve just felt a little too overwhelmed in this little task. And I think that’s okay. Well, I know it’s okay. And I’m working to not feel guilty about it.

So today I have the privilege of taking care of one very sweet little girl named Malena. She’s almost 14 months and is super fun. She’s napping right now, so I’m stealing away some blogging time.

To talk about a book that I am still reading, Abundant Simplicity, by Jan Johnson.

In the third chapter she talks about Intentionality. And as I read this before bed last night, I was hit hard. She asks the question, “what are you longing for?” and challenges her readers to think through what their actions, choices, activities say about this.

And I had to confess that lately I have not been intentional about my time. Some of this is due to a busy season at the church, and I know that and I am choosing not to feel guilty about that.

But at home… I have all too often turned on the T.V. or stayed online WAY too long, simply because it’s habit. I’m not making a conscious choice… I’m not choosing T.V. because it is my favorite thing… I’m just operating on auto pilot. Jan writes,

The opposite of living intentionally as a response to God’s longing is living on autopilot, which means doing whatever occurs to us without pausing to consider what we really want. It seems easier to do what we’ve always done or what everyone else does. Even if you learn to live intentionally, expect that in a time of crisis you’ll switch to old automatic pilot choices. Plan ahead for this to happen and be vigilant.

And I think this is where intentionality becomes hard. It’s a bit easier with conscious choices, but with those ingrained habits we often don’t recognize until we’re an hour into it… that’s where it gets hard. I shared a few weeks ago that I was working hard to limit the role of T.V. in my life and to think less about what I wear each day. These have been increasingly challenging. I’ve been amazed at how easy I slip back into bad habits without even realizing it.

This month I have challenged our kids at Immanuel to memorize Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

And these very familiar words have convicted me. Especially during this advent season. Brandon and I have reached a milestone this year… for the first time in our 6 years of marriage, we will be spending our Christmas at home, with one another (and perhaps some friends). We are dissappointed not to be with family, but we’re also so excited to have this special time. And I have found myself lost as to what to do. Advent has suddenly seemed much longer than usual, and since we will no longer be making a 10 day trip, we find ourselves with far less stress.

And I find myself with more time than typical. And that is where intentionality becomes so crucial. I am preparing for the fourth time (in as many years) to celebrate Christmas without our child. And I am feeling tremendous peace about this and, honestly, an anticipation that soon our lives will change.

But I would be lying if I said this peace wasn’t also accompanied by tears.

And so comes back to the “what are you longing for?” question. I have been reading through the book of Hebrews and have been continually challenged that if I’m not careful, I can choose my baby over my Savior.

I can focus all of my energy on anticipating the coming of my child, not the Savior of the world.

So this week I am working to intentionally anticipate the coming of our Savior on Christmas Day. Of course I am praying always for BabyO, for their birthparents and all who are involved.

But ultimately I am anticipating my Savior.

And in closing, here are a few quotes from this third chapter of Jan’s book:

This longing, solidified into intentionality, is actually a beautiful response to God’s longing for us. Before the foundation of the world, God thought of each of us and thought each of us was a good idea (Eph 1:4-6). God longed for us even then.

Intentionality is about responding to the longing of God inviting you into a different kind of life.

If we choose to journey with God carrying unnecessary weights, God will let us do it. God does not force us to lay unnecessary burdens down. But transformation into Christlikeness is much more difficult when we’re encumbered by multiplicity of words, cluttered schedules, decathlon vacations or the cell phone surgically attached to our ear.

Listening to the Spirit

As I mentioned yesterday, I am writing all week long for a devotional site called encouraging.com

It’s been a neat exercise to take some time to write these devotionals. And the one which is posted today especially so. How are you at listening to the Spirit’s voice in your life? If you’re anything like me, that can be very challenging. And I don’t have all the answers, but  I hope that this offers you some encouragement.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19


Do you ever have trouble hearing the voice of the Spirit? If you’re anything like me, then your answer is a resounding Yes! Recently I have embarked on a project of simplicity. What do I mean? I have been trying to simplify the “extras” in my life. Too often I allow noises to crowd out the voice of God.

So I have begun turning off the T.V. and simplifying my activities. I have been working to discipline myself to only take so much time getting ready in the morning. I am still very much a work in progress, but I’m learning.

And I have been amazed at how these simple steps have allowed me to hear the voice of the Spirit.

Click here to read more from “Listening to the Spirit.”

Exhaling the Unnecessary

Weggis, Switzerland

Recently my parents took a trip to Weggis, Switzerland. Now many of you know that to say my parents travel a lot is most definitely an understatement. With their various ministry responsibilities, they are on the road often. But this trip was different. This trip was a time to get away, to rest and to pray. The picture above was taken on their trip and I just thought it was gorgeous. Simply beautiful.

Which brings me to our topic of the evening… Simplifying. Getting away is necessary. But what are we to do in our regular every day life? Isn’t it hard to get rid of those things that are truly unnecessary in our life? Or is it just me?

In her Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson challenges her readers in the first chapter to identify what is unnecessary in their lives, so that they may inhale more of the Savior. Jan writes,

Because we’re trying to breathe in the oxygen of real life with God without breathing out the daily chaos that chokes out such interaction.

So I’m learning how to resist the unnecessary as I prepare to dig deeper in this discipline of simplicity.

How? Some simple steps: watching less T.V. and spending less time getting ready in the morning. These may sound overly simplified, but I’ve found that they uselessly crowd my day. So, instead of turning the T.V. on right when I get home, I’m waiting till there is actually something I want to watch. And instead of changing my clothes 5 times (for no reason whatsoever), I’m sticking with what I put on first, or even picking it out the night before.

These are simple steps, but I’m hoping that open up just a little bit more time in my day that will allow me to spend more time growing closer to the Savior. Already, I have been blessed by increased time with the Savior in the morning and more time to devote to a few writing projects I have going on. It hasn’t been a perfect week, but I’m growing.

We’ll see.

Good night, friends.

Living in the Ordinary

Yesterday I got to work from home.... which means I got good coffee in my favorite mug...one of my favorite "ordinary" things.

My routine has resumed.

What do I mean? I shared before that I was feeling knocked out, incapable of doing life. Well, lately, I have begun to find my footing. I have begun to find life much more doable.

And ordinary tasks have helped. Now I have had to be patient with myself. Anytime one struggles through a time of depression or hardship, often energy is the first thing to suffer. And I have had to train myself to feel better about doing less.

And maybe I should do less to begin with. I’m trying to sort out what is necessary in my life and what is unnecessary. But that’s a discussion for another time!

So today I’m running errands. I had breakfast with some women that I am so blessed by. Then I got to do some fun birthday shopping for my darling husband. Now I’m back home working on freelance assignments (and blogging along the way)…

And I find myself encouraged.

And I find myself feeling at peace with the state of our lives. I wouldn’t say I’ve bounced back (because I think that’s not a helpful metaphor)… but I’m living. I’m accomplishing things by the power of the Holy Spirit that three weeks ago I did not feel I had the energy to do.

And it’s not by own strength, but by Christ who strengthens me.

And I think that’s all I have to say.

And I hope you’re okay with that. 🙂

Thanks for reading, friends.

Love, love, love these precious girls!

P.S. Just for grins I thought I’d post a picture with some of my favorite girls who I used to nanny for. I miss getting to spend time with them every week.

Simplicity in Abundance anyone?

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

As Brandon and I struggle to maintain 6 jobs between the two of us, prepare for our child and try to keep the romance alive… simplicity is something that we crave. In fact, lately I have found myself picking up every book I can that talks about this topic. Now, I realize the irony of adding a new thing to do in order to simplify more… but I’m just craving insight in cutting out the unnecessary and living life more intentionally.

One of my favorite books is Organized Simplicity. If you have time, or even if your time is significantly limited, you should definitely pick it up. It’s an easy read and gives practical advice for simplifying everything in your life. I read it in 10 minute spurts while nannying and LOVED it!

But that’s not why I’m writing today. One of the benefits of having a husband in publishing is that he often gets free books. By often I mean 3-5 a week at times! He reviews those he thinks the magazine would like and then passes on the rest to friends in ministry… or me!

So, as I try to blog more often I’m realizing that I need some prompts. So I thought Mondays would be a great day to blog about books that I’m reading. A cyber book Club of sorts.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace

 

And what’s my choice for this first series? Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace by Jan Johnson.

Simplicity. I’m longing for simplicity and I can’t wait to see what Jan has to say! Join me!