Without the Answers

Before I place a word down, I feel like I need the answers. I can sometimes vomit emotions and irrational thoughts and fears into my journal, but the perfectionist in me feels the need to find the solution before I can put the problem down in words. I am afraid of sounding negative, needy, desperate, and/or crazy. Correction: I’m afraid that a reader somewhere will find out that I am all those things. So I hold myself back from writing and my lack of posts and journal entries proves how few answers I have.

Today I found myself defeated by 8:30am. I was in tears by about 10am. The day felt completely lost, unredeemable. I decided I have four options:

  1. Run away. I debated this…unsure of where I would go. Sleeping in my van would totally cut it for a night or two, but we are nearing the end of Oct. in Minnesota and I think my contact solution would freeze. And me.
  2. Find out I have a fatal disease, not tell my family, refuse treatment. Die. This sounds dramatic and insensitive to people actually facing fatal diseases, of whom I am not one. Option tabled for the time-being.
  3. Hate my life, my family, my situation.
  4. Quit caring. Step back from all the things I can’t seem to control (though I think 10 year old children should be in the category of things I should at least partially control), give up for the day.

So option four it is. I feel hopeless, I feel frustrated, I feel angry. I may have offered God some ultimatums (for which I promptly apologized, but then said, “But really, God… I can’t go on like this!”). Today I had to choose to give up on parenting, homeschooling, and discipling my difficult child. It is so contrary to what we are told we should do. How often I have wanted to say, “I give up on this child! I give up on parenting!” but either someone close to me or I talk myself down from this ledge. Today I decided that standing on that ledge is the very best I can do. For today. I hope that tomorrow is a fresh start, but today I have to quit. Choosing to not care for today is the best I can do. I have beat myself up for years and have allowed myself to place the blame on my shoulders. Today I hear my other child say she is frustrated dealing with the same stuff that I’m frustrated dealing with. I see myself in a crazy cycle with no interruption and no respite. So for today, I quit. Maybe I’ll still be “quit” tomorrow, too, but today I’m resting in the knowledge that it’s all I have.

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The Not So Perfect Life

Can you relate?  Do you ever feel like everyone else has it all together or has everything going right?  Everyone but you?  I feel this way more than I should.  I can think of the craziest things that other people must have going for them that I am sadly missing out on.  Although this struggle goes on, I can see ways that the Lord has grown me and matured me and given me a little of that thing (that usually comes with hard lessons) called perspective.

A year or two ago these are some of the things that apparently everyone else had going just right except me:

*Sleep.  For heaven’s sake, am I the only one who is exhausted ALL.THE.TIME?!  Why am I the only one walking around with big black bags under my eyes?

*Health.  Does no one else get as sick as my family?  Why doesn’t everyone have multiple rounds of the stomach flu every year?

*The perfect house.  Doesn’t anyone else’s roof leak?  Doesn’t anyone else have to work their silly buns off to keep a presentable house?  Does anyone ever wish for just a split second they could burn the whole blasted thing down and start over? (And then take it back, of course……I know too many families who have lost it all in house fires and then I wonder what is wrong with me for even wishing such a thing?!  I’m a monster!)

*Delightful children….really, do parents go days and days without having to reprimand or discipline their little children?  What am I doing wrong?  I feel fortunate to go hours without intervening in my children’s bad behavior.

*Money.  Of course everyone seems to have way more of it than we do.  Doesn’t anyone else have to stretch and stretch and sometimes even just snap from all the stretching?  And why are some people such ridiculously good budgeters?  I mean, really, who can spend like $200/month on groceries for a family over four?  I’m hungry just trying to figure it out…..

*Happiness.  Am I just a downer?  Are other people happy all the time and I’m just the loser who has bad days here and there and sometimes even bad weeks or months?!

I still have days where I wonder these things.  But life has given me a bit of a wake-up call….partly in the form of glimpses into other people’s lives, partly in the form of just taking my eyes off myself for a stinkin’ second so that I can see the reality of life….not just my life.  There is an advantage of sharing our burdens with one another….partly it is lifting one another up in prayer, partly it is being humble enough to acknowledge that we don’t have it all together, and really there is a blessing in knowing we all struggle.  None of us are perfect.  As happy as we make ourselves look and as perfect as we try to make our lives sound, we are all less than perfect.

Welcome to my not so perfect life.  After receiving some encouragement from friends during our recent parenting challenges, I asked my husband if we were the only parents who struggled so much with parenting.  I wondered if maybe we were just wimps or if maybe our kids were just really bad.  He laughed, “No, I think everyone struggles.  We just wear it on our sleeves more than some people.  And hey, that’s good.  I don’t want to be prideful about parenting.”  I appreciated his take on it…..he’s right.  We probably do let it all hang out more than some people.  But we seek joy in all circumstances (as hard as that might be!) and we seek wisdom in the hard times.  Our faith has grown the most during our most difficult times.  Hopefully hanging all of our laundry out for all to see means that people also get to see the victories that God gives us.  And when we share with each other, we realize we are NOT the only sleep-deprived, ill, broken-down, sinful, flat-broke, and occasionally bummed out souls out there.  If you need perspective, look at those around you.  Their lives might be just as imperfect as yours!

100% does not leave me with enough percentages…..

My life feels split up into about 50 pieces lately.  So many things going on, so many things I should be doing, so many things I feel responsible for.  There’s only so much I can give out on a daily basis and it ends up making me feel like I’m not able to put my all or my best into anything.  Everything is suffering.  Giving 100% to each day might mean that my kids only get 15%, my husband 10%, housework 20%, ministry 20%, feeding my family a good meal 15%, the hope of getting any quiet time with the Lord or getting in any exercise–10%, the extras–running errands, trying to focus on photography, balancing the checkbook, encouraging a friend–10%.  Which means that nothing is getting the effort or attention it needs or deserves.  Which means that I feel like a failure and a loser at the end of every day.  Which means I can hardly catch my breath or still my racing heart as I think of the next day where I’m giving way too little of myself to way too many things again.

I think that one of my least favorite, over-used words is “balance.”  I might live in a different world than all these people who claim they’ve found “balance” in their lives, but my life seems less like a balancing act and way more like a juggling act.  And I really hate juggling.

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Four years ago we packed up all of our belongings and moved out of the suburbs to a small little town.  We were ready to get out of the rat race, we wanted to slow life down, we wanted to downsize our living expenses so that I could stay at home and focus on being a mom and a wife.  Somehow the rat race caught up with me here in this small little town.  I typically have less than one day a week where I am not obligated to an activity or a person outside of our family.  Even when we lived in the suburbs and I spent three days a week commuting back and forth to the city to work, I had at least two full days a week that were saved just for me to spend time with our daughter, catch up on chores, housework, etc.  I have less of that “home” time now and I have an extra child in the mix.  I’m not quite sure how that happened or how this year in particular became so demanding.  I’m sure a big part of it started with me saying a lot of “yeses” and not enough “nos.”

Where Do I Go From Here?

Homeschooling begins next year for our oldest daughter and before it even begins, I want to somehow take a snapshot of this moment in time, I want to freeze the sheer panic I feel on a daily basis, I want to remember this stressful time well enough to stay firm in the “home” aspect of “homeschooling” next year.  Commitments for the here and now have already been made and I have to fulfill those commitments.  I can only focus on surviving to the best of my ability and maybe lowering my standards in a few areas so that I don’t completely beat myself up before summer begins.  The only change I can really make is for the future.  I want to promise to myself and to my family to reserve our weekdays for school, family time, and ministry that we can do as a family.  Lord, give me the strength to uphold that promise!  Give me the courage to say no!  And help me do more than just survive until then…..give me the energy and the strength to give as much as I can to what I have before me.

Still Standing

Rock ‘n Roll’s Life Advice

My hubby and I would probably both agree that one of our favorite Tom Petty songs is “I Won’t Back Down.”  At one point in our lives, it was probably due to the fact that we were both a little hard-headed or stubborn, if you will. Marriage, maturity, and God have all had a hand in softening up those hard edges, but something about this song still strikes a chord in me.  Recently I was out running and listening to it on my mp3 player.  I thought of it as such a literal way we should face life.

Well, I won’t back down, no I won’t back down. You could stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down. Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around. And I’ll keep this world from dragging me down. Gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down.

Spiritual Truths

I think of the spiritual weapons we are told to use in Ephesians: the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation, and the belt of truth.  I remember a friend pointing out, “There’s nothing to protect your backside!  You better stand and fight the devil–you better not run!”  I’ve thought of that so many times in life.  We are to flee evil, but when it comes to the enemy attacking us, we better just hunker down and fight.

Life throws us things we don’t expect and things we feel unprepared for.  Sometimes we actually feel like we are being attacked on every side….in our family, in our friendships, in our career, in our reputation, etc.  Don’t back down.  There are times when life has me down, beaten down, laying prone before God and crying out.  But I have learned to not back down in the sense of running away.  I have learned that it is okay to be down, but to pray for the strength to stand back up again and literally stand my ground.

When Life Gives Us a Chance to Stand

In the last couple of years I’ve struggled with feeling depressed.  I have rarely lost the will to carry on or to face a new day, but I would say that I haven’t been operating at full capacity for a long, long time.  The last six months have been heart-breaking, soul-crushing at times.  A good friend was unexpectedly taken home to the Lord.  In the wide wake of grief, friendships changed and some even became broken.  My husband and I truly felt hard-pressed on every side at times.  Even my dh’s business slowed down and we found ourselves living on not much more than faith.  Loneliness, grief, fear, and insecurity gripped me on a daily basis.  On my knees, so many times in tears, I felt so broken, but I also felt a small little faith deep in my soul that kept me holding my ground.  I knew that everything that Satan wanted to use for evil, God would turn for good–and not just my good, but more importantly, the Lord’s good will and purpose.  I knew that God was working out my character, allowing me to be broken in order to rebuild me for good.  I felt what I felt (the things that kept me in tears), but I also knew what I knew (which kept me from backing down).

Some circumstances have begun to turn, others have not.  I am sure that there will be days that bring me back down again, but I am so thankful that I am able to say that the darkness has lifted and the light has begun pouring in.  Last week I felt better than I honestly have in two years.  I felt happiness and determination and pleasure in ways that I had forgotten.   I enjoyed my children more than I have in years.  I am mortified to think I have gone this long without truly treasuring them.  I’ve lacked selflessness in my marriage and perspective in relationships.  How grateful I am that Christ strengthens us and empowers us in every situation.  How thankful I am to be on the other side of the darkness.  How glad I am that faith, while it didn’t keep me from falling, it kept me from turning around and turning away.

High School Bible Study

Thank goodness I lead a high school girls Bible Study.  Because even if they don’t learn anything from the study, I always learn something good.  Ha, ha…..

Tonight we were talking about forgiveness.  We had opportunities to journal about people who have hurt us and whether or not we have hung on to the hurt or let it go.  I always try so hard to let it go, but ultimately I hang on and keep feeling the pain for a long time.  I’m not particularly vengeful nor am I much of a grudge-keeper, but I am a perfect example of how unforgiveness only hurts the person who chooses not to forgive.  Like I said, I just let The Thing hurt me over and over again.  Seeing The Perpetrator can rise up hurt feelings in me all over again EVERY SINGLE TIME.  *Ugh*  I feel so weak and faithless when I am unable to move past The Thing. Or when a small little New Thing takes on monstrous proportions because I never got past the Old Thing.

Tonight’s study reminded me to take time to pray for the person who had hurt me.  Now I assume that means to pray good things for the person we are trying to forgive.  (Hey, don’t tell me that you have never prayed things like, “Convict them Lord” or “Don’t let them hurt others” or on a bad day, “Discipline them, Lord!”)  Maybe I’m the only dirtball out there, but sometimes it is honestly really hard for me to pray blessing for those who have hurt me.  And the longer I allow myself to not pray in this way for them, the harder it is to start up after time has passed.

Hard as it is, let it begin tonight.

Forgetting the little things?

Since the start of our “ill season” about a month ago or something like that, my two little girls have become more and more grumpy, disobedient, argumentative, and down-right miserable to be around.  Yesterday was incredibly frustrating for me all day, which was followed by an evening of frustration for Dave (I got to leave for Bible Study–thank you, Lord!).  After the girls were both in bed last night, we sat and shared our frustrations.  At some point we agreed that we should spend some time praying together over each of our children.

We prayed over each pajama-clad little girl.  We prayed for their little hearts and we prayed for ourselves, as well.  Tough times with my children only show me all of my own inadequacies as a parent.  I knew I needed prayer as much as those little rug-rats did!

Guess what?  It’s nearly supper time and today has been a much, much better day.  It hasn’t been without a couple of tears or pouts here and there (from my kids, not me!), but for the most part, all of the behavior that had me fuming yesterday was gone today.  I really believe that today actually began late last night as we were praying.  Am I the only one that sometimes forgets this imperative part of parenting?

Best Friends or Mortal Enemies: Same Thing When You’re a Sister

Since getting sick last week, the girls and I have been home almost exclusively for an entire week.  We’ve gotten out for some walks, even a van ride, but mostly just sitting around the house.  All of this, combined with the grumpiness that comes from still not feeling great, leads to lots of fighting between my two girls.  Now, somehow, I guess that there are families where siblings don’t fight.  I don’t really get this–in fact, it kind of depresses me.  But just recently it occurred to me that perhaps people’s definition of their children “fighting” is different than mine.

It reminds me of some good friends of ours who, when we were all newlyweds, would say, “Oh, we don’t fight.”  I remember wondering what the heck was wrong with my marriage (or me) if Dave and I were having disagreements and they weren’t.  After hearing their (obnoxious) proclamation over and over again, and then also hearing some of the tough “discussions” they had, I realized that their definition of a “fight” was different than mine and Dave’s.  To me, a “fight” was where a discussion got heated or touchy or aroused strong emotions such as anger or hurt.  Heck, even a simple confrontation or a little honesty felt like a fight to me.  My friends must have thought fists, yelling, and swearing had to be involved to make it a real fight or something.  (Gosh, what did they think our marriage was like if we said “we have lots of fights!”….ha, ha…).  It wasn’t that they had fewer disagreements or tense moments or hard decisions; they just called them by a different name (or didn’t even factor them in a category at all!).

Is this what people who say “my kids don’t fight–they’re best friends” do also?  My girls can play so silly together, they can sometimes take turns and share well, and they can do so many sweet and thoughtful things for one another.  But man, there are days or moments (or weeks, if you’re couped up) where they are really at each other’s throats.  Yelling, crying, and teeth/hands as weapons are often involved, so I’m sure my old “we don’t fight” friends would even categorize these as “true fights.”  Ugh.  They get ugly.  And after a week of it, I resorted to my favorite way to manage it:

Separate them!  One kid in each bedroom with a toy of choice.  Sofie has to stay in bed playing the whole time, Annika has worked up to being allowed to play on the floor.  Doors shut, timer set (today for 45 minutes) and no one is allowed to come out or yell for me during that time.  Glorious.  And everyone comes off separate play time a much happier soul.

To sum it all up, I think good sisters throw a few slaps, cry like the world is coming to an end over an argument, give lots of make-up hugs, and play hard when the spirit moves (or after Mom has separated you).  A little bit of that made us friends, right Bridgit?  Here is hoping my girls won’t stay mortal enemies for long and will stay best friends forever!

CRW_0170No longer enemies, only friends.  🙂

Mom of the Year

Make that Worst Mom of the Year award….all mine.  Boo!  That is how I feel lately!  I love my kids and I enjoy them, but I confess that I do not love to play with my children.  I’ll read them books or sit down with them to supervise crafts or “preschool”.  I’ll interact with them through out the day as they are playing, I’ll take them on walks or play a 2 minute game of tag.  But play?  Ugh.  I just don’t think I’m the playing type and boy do I feel guilty about it lately!

For starters, Annika has been very play-needy lately.  She has never been like this; she has always played well on her own and has seemingly always enjoyed it.   For the last week, she has begged/demanded that I play with her all day long.  I’ll play for maybe 10 minutes, but then I just can’t take it any longer!  I move on to mommy tasks and it crushes her.  One afternoon she sobbed in the living room because I wouldn’t play with her….I had a little thing called personal finances to work through.  Dave happened upstairs and when she told him why she was crying, he sat and played with her for about 5 minutes.  Then, thank heavens, it was her naptime.

Guilt upon guilt I have built upon myself this week as I have been facebook stalking my friends’ photo albums.  (Is it stalking if they’re my friends?)  One of my friends has all these pictures of her literally on her hands and knees playing silly things with her kids.  Another mom showed a picture of her 5 year-old’s snowman that included vegetables for the face.  No five year-old did that alone.  Blah…I am the most boring and un-fun mom ever!

How do I teach myself to enjoy playing?  Or do I just make myself do it and only inwardly grimace?  If I homeschool my kids, can I hire someone to play with them on a daily basis?