Friday, May 07, 2021

Retreat and Advance

The day has come for me to begin to write again. Oh, how I loved to write in the past; I loved recording our days, using this space as a journal to record the beauty of our days. It helped me to see the beauty, to know it and remember it, and still to see it when I look backward. But because of the restrictive environment I was living under in our ministry life, it became an uphill emotional battle to sit and make public the thoughts of my heart and I reached a point where I no longer felt up to the task, but to write dishonestly was worse than not writing at all.  Being in a community where information could be a weapon to be wielded against me or my loved ones, to be fodder for judgment and criticism, it became difficult to share information and meditations of my inmost thoughts.
We have, through dramatic and unlooked for means, been removed and freed from this oppressive situation, one we didn't fully or consciously recognize until we were out of it. I don't really feel ready to divulge many more details for the public eye although if you are reading this and want to ask me personally what has gone on in my life, I am comfortable talking about it. However, I have, for too long now, yearned to write again, to share my life and let myself feel I have something worthwhile to offer the world still. 

Life is messy, isn't it? Hard. Sweaty. Baffling. Painful. Lonely.
But it's also beautiful. Breathtaking. Surprising. Friendly. Worthy of dancing and singing over. 

It's not like this year has been easy for anyone, with COVID devastating so many, and political strife and polarization breaking into even families and churches. It's been an especially difficult year for everyone for a myriad of reasons, and our family is no exception.  

We lost friendships, our ministry, many dreams, and pieces of our identity. We weren't really looking to lose those things or even move on from any of them, but the Lord, in His mercy, knew what was best for us, even if the road to it was rocky. Jesse now happily works in our same community, developing after-school technology and discipleship programs for the ministry Swan Vocational Enterprises, a vocational training ministry/economic development organization, which separated from Sacred Road Ministries early last year. We are so blessed to have had a soft place to land gently with such kind friends when the rug was suddenly pulled out from under our feet, when we were left reeling and surprised at what we were learning about our past and present. I am still walking through a great deal of anxiety and depression related to past events in our life, but am thankful for a great counselor and many beloved friends who have surrounded me, prayed for me, and cared for me tenderly in my sorrow and wounding. When I feel things are dark, the Lord continually encircles me with Himself and His children who have been inordinately kind to me. 

We felt it was necessary to have a quiet retreat as a family after such a hard year, and slipped away to the Oregon Coast last week. There were ups and downs as every family vacation holds - family irritations, a broken tooth to stress over (mine), money worries (when will I learn to trust the God of abundance?), but it was, at the same time, restful. Peaceful. A retreat. Our souls are weary, our troubles threaten to overwhelm us, yet He is faithful, a very present help in trouble. We are not overcome, we are not drowned. He has set our feet in a large room, He has drawn the lines for us in pleasant places and ultimately always has. I am a witness to that, even as I struggle to believe it. It is a fight worth fighting. 

I am so happy to be writing, to feel the freedom to write unrestricted. It is a like a piece of myself I lost that I am digging around again to uncover. I can't even explain what it feels like to write. It sparks a jolt of joy.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Watching for Beauty

It is surprising how quickly so much can change.  But even when everything is topsy-turvy, a great deal remains the same. The sun still rises.  The night comes faithfully.  People still must be fed, hugged, read to.  

I don't have any unique words of encouragement.  I am, like you, watching the unfolding of worldwide pandemic with confusion, sorrow, and a measure of anxiety.  But I can focus on the beauty around me, on the things that build up rather than tear down. I choose today to see the good here and not just the scary and unclear. I choose today to trust that God has not forgotten us.  I choose today to thank Him for being with us, for being The God Who Sees - and not just Sees, but Loves. 

We continue to do school when so much else has quieted. We keep reading beautiful books together: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Little Women; A Wonder Book of Greek mythology. We make brownies together, play Chinese Checkers, watch a movie, drink coffee, knit, draw in our sketchbooks.  Maybe these things will become part of what we remember.  Maybe with practice we can remember to watch for beauty and be filled with joy yet even when the trumpet of doom sounds loudly all around us. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

summer evening

Just a quiet summer evening walk.  We finished up the dishes and headed out the door and saw our friend and neighbor out with his boy ahead of us walking so we just joined right in and wandered the country paths around the pond and back again.  When we got back, Jesse read a chapter of Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome (the sequel to Swallows and Amazons - a big favorite this past year) and everyone crashed into bed after a long day.  I like this kind of summer evening. 

summer ballet

Although we do NOT school year round, we continued on with ballet class through the summer because it is such a beloved part of each week.  The girls' ballet teacher, Miss Lisa, is amazing and I have seen all three of my daughters grow so much this summer in their dancing ability, but also in their perseverance and confidence.  I reminded Millie the other day of how far she has come even though she had to miss several months of lessons this fall when she broke her ankle!  Now that feels like a faraway bad dream when she arabesques beautifully across the room, turns, and, running, ends with a grand jete leap to the corner.  
All three girls auditioned this week for a part in the Moscow Ballet Nutcracker that will be here in town one night in November.  All three were cast! Rosie and Millie will dance as Snowflakes and Lyddie will dance as one of the children at the party.  To say they are excited is an understatement.  I am so proud of them and their courage to audition and we are all eagerly anticipating the fun of them being up on a big stage in front of a huge audience and dancing with real grown up ballerinas from Moscow! 

it's okay

With my parents, my three brothers and two sisters-in-law when we surprised my dad by visiting for Father's Day

Jesse made this, taking a quote from a favorite Switchfoot song

The girls and I made summer book recommendations for each other and Rosie's list got rather long!  I'm not sure how many she's read but I think it gave her confidence to start reading longer chapter books! 

 Saying the Junior National Park Ranger Oath at Mt. Rainier NP

My babies are getting bigger now.  My baby girl is starting first grade soon and my other two girls are in third and fourth grades.  I never would have imagined my motherhood road passing by so quickly, especially since I always pictured myself with a longer journey through each stage and maybe with more children and maybe a little more spaced apart.  But with my three girls all born within 3 1/2 years of each other, I storm through a stage and launch into the next with the dust swirling around my feet and blurring my vision.  I basically blinked and was done with toddlerdom (honestly, not sure I am sad about that one going by quick).  The preschool years that I adore slipped away and now I have all these elementary aged girls and am starting to peek ahead a little toward the next stages with joy and -let's face it - trembling.  I have (mostly) loved each stage for what it is but they disappear so quickly and I'm left a little breathless and wishing for a little more time with at least one of them.  Every motherhood road is different with its own challenges and joys, but wouldn't we all be lying if we said we didn't sometimes envy the grass on the other side that seems just a little more lush than our (weedy, overgrown, toy-strewn) yard?  

I was told last year by a trusted counselor that it's okay for me to grieve the passing of a season, especially as my youngest whirls through it.  Until we had that conversation, I didn't realize that I was harboring this dragon of guilt that flew around and exhaled fire in so many directions.  Every milestone or birthday for my youngest daughter was riddled with guilt - the guilt I felt over grieving something as GOOD as her growing and changing, guilt that I was -still- sometimes grieving the fact that I wanted more children but that doesn't seem to be the direction our family is going to head; and guilt that I was even feeling guilt since I know there are many women who would give their right eye to experience that milestone with their own child. There's a nugget of truth in so many of those thoughts I was having and that guilt was burning all these little fires that I couldn't figure out how to put out each time I saw and noticed a new development ("this might be the last time I'll ever give one of my children a bath!"), every new stage ("someday they might not even want to hold my hand!"), every new birthday ("this is the last sixth birthday I'll ever throw as a mother"), even day to day when I saw her outside playing alone with her doll ("this is passing and she won't do this someday!").  

And I wasn't done with guilt.  I had an unconscious fear: what if my older two saw my grief attached to their little sister and construed it as more love for her than for them?  The flames were licking closer and I was sweating and cranky and trying too hard. 

Then the counselor's words that were the stream of water to me.  It's okay to feel grief at the passing of a season.  OKAY.  Not bad. Not terrible.  Neutral.

Whew.  That sure gave some breathing room to feel and think without judgment.  Removing judgment allows me to do my best and be free to be a restful mom even as the days and stages and Christmases and birthdays fly by.  I can relinquish the control I was attempting to exert over these feelings that I had labeled BAD and remember that the grief I feel that coincides with the milestones of my youngest daughter is really connected to all my daughters growing up.  

To help me be able to this, I have a little notepad in the bathroom.  Yeah, by the toilet.  And a pen.  And when I go to the bathroom, instead of opening up an app and hiding in there scrolling for 10 minutes in the quiet, I grab the pen and jot down a few things I am thankful for.  Usually just four at a time and sometimes I have to think hard to remember what the blessings are in my life when money is tight, or the car has broken down, or bickering has taken over my life, but those four things are a lifeline until the next time I have to visit the water closet where I can hide in the quiet and meditate.  So here's a few from this week:

*Beautiful wood floors revealed when Jesse pulled up the linoleum in the kitchen!
*All three girls cast in the Nutcracker!
*Finished knit scarf
*Evening sunset walk with friends
*Rosie, first thing this morning: "I just love snuggling with you."

I am thankful, and that thanksgiving helps combat the guilt and move through the mother-grief and perfectionism that still dogs me.  You know, I still have to fight it and sometimes I fight better than other times.  The thanksgivings help peace to wash over me, like I'm coming up for air and can dive back into the fray again for a little while again and try to enjoy the mad pace of time as it passes.