A Day in the Life of Jane

I start each day the same- fresh with no mistakes in it, like Anne Shirley says in “Anne of Green Gables”. As I sit with my steaming mug of caffeine in a still house, I am hopeful and invigorated. My mind wanders all over the place, roving through scenes from the previous days and curious how this day will unfold before me. I think about what to make for dinner before I’ve even had my breakfast and I am concerned about ”getting it all done” and it’s only 7 a.m.

Should I bake some delicious muffins (yes, please!)? Or should I go sweat profusely with a run? There are limitless choices. The next 12 or so hours cast a mysterious aura in front of me. Will the day be mostly sunshine and rainbows or will it be fraught with black cloud moments or worse, just turn into a big pile of oh, well, you know?

I pray and read my bible. Like the coffee I crave, this is truly my lifeline, my sustenance, my sanity preserver, my one sure thing. I am calmed, helped, assured, reminded, comforted, challenged.

Then, the kids get up on the wrong side of the bed, the husband texts about problems at work, the dog won’t stop barking, the laundry needs to be started. And if that weren’t enough to fizzle a fresh start, I’ve already had to don my mental boxing gloves to fight the temptation to despair, the guilt I just can’t shake over poor choices or the looming sense that things may go terribly amiss. Clearly, I have OMS- overwhelmed mom syndrome.

It is only 9 o’clock now. The hope and expectations of this day have already blurred like watercolor on canvas. I recall the words of God about how He cares for me, loves me fully, knows my needs, but my situation looks a little bleak and the words get fuzzy. Breathing a little deeper, I calm down again. (My caffeine has kicked in too, so the world just looks a little brighter!)

By lunch, our schoolwork is in full swing (yes, my kids are schooling at home again this year- long story). It has been a morning of testy attitudes, complaining, occasional tears and laziness – some of it mine! Cherry on top of the morning? The hubby has forwarded yet another rejection letter for a job he didn’t get. I feel resentment creep over me. I want to go for a run, better yet, run away.

It’s 3 pm. A bedraggled me must run some errands (The high point to having teenagers in the house- I can leave everyone at home and have a few blissful moments of  alone time.) I run to the store half-ass, trying for the life of me to remember what is on my shopping list- that I conveniently left at home. Walking down the coffee I aisle, I stop and take a deep inhale of the smell that started my morning. It {almost} has a placebo affect and for a brief moment, I feel invigorated again. Then I go down the beverage aisle. The boxed wine catches my eye and for a moment I imagine drinking large amounts and sitting numb while the world goes on around me. A voice rebukes me from my daydream. That’s not me- though at moments, I am tempted. 🙂

Throw in soccer practice then dinner dishes, walking the dog, et al… The day has blazed past me at warp speed. My body is worn from the fatigue and I look forward to bed as a delicious respite from the past hours of chaos and clamor.

My mental boxing gloves are well-worn. They have been put to good use today fighting off a number of evils from within. I am amazed to think of how determined I was just a mere 14 hours ago- ready to face the day armed with truth, zeal and caffeine! How easily I succumb to the out of control craziness!

But I did have my moments I guess: beautiful brushstrokes of grace, joy, love, appreciation, gratefulness, peace, sweetness, bliss, comfort, faith, awe, grit, perseverance, success, kindness.

I lay down, happy. Knowing that the sum of the parts of my day look beautiful on the canvas of the bigger picture and knowing that tomorrow, I begin again with a fresh start and no mistakes.

I Still Do (part 2)

The next ten years have been what they call, “the best of times and the worst of times.”

Enter a 30 year-old mama, finally out of my “baby days” and heading into a brighter future. Enter a 37 year-old hubby who is about to hit mid-life. Crisis pending.

Yet, what I gained in confidence and knowledge through my 20’s, I seemed to lack in applying it to daily moment-by-moment life. I found myself easily overwhelmed and often frustrated, with myself and my family.

One day, we up and decided to move out of state. WHAT WERE THINKING? Oh, alas, we seemed to have checked our brains at the door of  “keeping up with the American dream- living better & bigger”. This proved to be (despite the wonderful blessings of beautiful, lasting friendships formed), where God would dig up the weeds in our lives- spiritually and martially speaking.

Now, this uprooting of things was, to put it nicely, a little bit of hell. Remember the duty driven wife of my 20’s? Well, just like duty driven Christianity, it gets old quick. It breeds resentment. This is because it lacks depth and richness of meaning. Any husband or wife can go through the motions (even while still being madly and deeply in love) yet, miss the mark completely. That was me.

Enter a 34 year-old broken mama- broken down by years of selfishness, depression and {self-imposed} violated expectations. God had his way with me. The weeds were pulled out and it hurt- a lot.

Here are the pervasive things that got yanked out: being- the perfect, model Christian wife, the Martha Stewart homemaker, the genius-raising home schooling teacher and more. I stopped trying to find fulfillment in my  “perfect” husband, awesome kids and American dream life and started FULLY, with reckless abandon, worshipping the ONLY ONE DESERVING my worship- GOD.

This transformed my marriage in ways I could never have imagined- even if I had read every “how to be the best wife” book I found. It breathed renewal, hope and new meaning into the vows that had been tangled up in the craziness of life.

Enter a 40-something husband whose career had taken unexpected twists and turns. Mid-life had set in and this was one weed that grew rapidly, with deep roots dating back to younger years. Sparing all the gory details, it was an unpleasant season for us both. My husband had to come to his own reckoning with the living God and it took a great amount of loss and humbling.

But God makes things beautiful in His time and although it is not the path I would have chosen to walk, He walked it with us- moment by moment.

The forward-looking journey of our 20 year union, is filled with so much hope, deeper abiding faith, and a friendship that is stronger than ever. Our commitment to walk through life together in sickness, health, good, bad, plenty, want and forsaking all others until our last earthly breath, still stands.

Our story isn’t over, but unlike the rather idealistic “love conquers all” beginnings, you will find written on the pages: struggle overcome by grace, stubbornness overcome by forgiveness, violated expectations overcome by fulfillment in Christ alone and two sinful people loving each other wholeheartedly and passionately.

I Still Do

IMG_2340There is a picture in our room that reads:

“Marriage is a bouquet of beautiful moments.”

Yes and no.

Enter a 19 year-old- naïve, idealistic, romantic.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one of those girls belting out, “Someday My Prince Will Come”, into my hairbrush, twirling around with a dreamy far off look in my eyes. In fact, I wasn’t looking for my prince at all. Then all of a sudden-SHABAM! – there I was saying “I do”.  Those two words meant something I could never have comprehended that sultry day in May, 20 years ago.

You see, those simple words pack a punch. Things come at you that you’d never dream or expect, both good and bad, while you are still standing there with rice in your hair.

They say the honeymoon period lasts a year, ours might have lasted a few hours. Yep. Remember, I am a hard headed, often opinionated woman who resisted the ideas of mutual respect and honor from the get go. Yes, I knew that was what I was supposed to do, but yeah, I guess I’m not good at conforming.

Enter a 28 year old- mama of 3 under six years of age. Craaaazy busy time- heavy on the crazy!

As we approached our 10th year of marriage, I looked around and thought, “I think I have the hang of this wife thing.”

Yes and no.

You see, the hubby and I have this little joke that I am more of a fighter than a lover. (Which isn’t REALLY so much of a joke- ahem.) I like a good tussle now and then, but sheesh, sometimes it seemed like we could not go a week without a major issue. Call it sleep deprivation or whatever. I was hyper sensitive, a wee bit of an attention hog and just plain difficult at moments. With 3 kids in tow, the stress of maintaining a marriage was overwhelming- a demand that I answered often in a dutiful way.

Pause the scene. Here I will interject a bit about sex. If you are reading this and under the age of 18- you were warned.

{Sex is an integral part of what makes a marriage strong. Excluding any physical limitations, it should be practiced liberally, honestly, passionately and selflessly. Just like every other part of marriage, it is an always evolving process that will morph throughout the seasons of life. But, it is in all honesty, the intimacy building  glue that keeps the other aspects of marriage fit together securely.}

OK. Back to marriage. And duty. I was plodding through the moments, savoring some, hating others. Those intense years of birthing babies, nursing, potty training, toddler training and the beginnings of home schooling left me depleted- mentally and physically. The poor hubby often got my leftovers, which were a bit cold, stale and frankly probably a bit “unappetizing”.

But he loved me anyways. I loved him back. We carried on. Committed, forging ahead. Confident of more sane years ahead.

Holy Schmoly… were we in for some surprises.

 

(To be continued) 🙂

May (in a nutshell)

This month has been a strange mixture of very good and very bad.

First, the very good:

My Love and I celebrated 20 years of marriage- a feat in this modern day world- a world that tries to make marriage look a like fairy tale, but when the magic wears off, the spouses move on to the next chapter in the story.

Our celebration was comprised of a few lovely dinners, a two-day get away sans kids and a bouquet of red roses and white carnations. We were able to spend many moments reflecting on our lives together- the not-so-pretty days, the precious, beautiful days, as well as our future together. I was humbled and awed remembering all that God has brought us through. Looking forward to 20 more years walking hand in hand with my best friend by my side.

But as you know: Life can change in a moment.

{Think of all the people whose lives have forever been altered just this week by the horrendous tornados. They had only 15 minutes warning. That’s it.}

I had no warning for my bad news.

It was dropped on me like a bomb: one of my children had been deceiving me for months. It was like the world stood still and in a few moments, scenes from this child’s life flashed before me like clips from a movie. Stunned. Incredulous. Hurt. Angry. All the emotions washed over me in a nano-second.

It’s pretty much been a living hell- not going to lie.

So as we have been sifting through, the garbage heap left behind the lies, I have experienced what I consider an astounding amount of self-realization. Maybe, just maybe if I share, you will be able to relate. (Or maybe this is just a cheap form of therapy for me J)

 – I have spent too many years self-deluded about parenting- seeing it as some sort of chess game, where I am the player, moving the pawns (aka- my children) exactly where I wanted and they’ve stayed. Now all of a sudden, they are able to move themselves, taking initiative, make decisions independent of me. I don’t like it. Not one bit. Sad to say, I have reacted like that poor sport, the one who, in a fit of rage, takes the board and topples it over, upsetting the entire game.

– My brain turns to mush when I am under great duress. I have truly had scary moments when I felt that I had been struck with an early onset of dementia. I have forgotten more than I’ve remembered these past few weeks. Quite disturbing actually.

– I am and always will be a hopeless mess without Jesus to hang on to.  I am messy enough WITH Him.  He is my SALVATION- rescuing me not only from myself, but also from the wrath that I deserve when I let my messy, sinfulness take over. He is my ROCK- when the ground all around me turns to quicksand, waiting to devour me heart and soul. He is my FORTRESS- my protection against the enemy’s wily schemes to destroy the very faith that makes me who I am. So, so incredibly thankful for this one unmovable, constant relationship!

– I have a few great friends in my life who love me enough to suspend judgment, give me a listening ear, pray for me, bear the struggles with me and point me to hope.  I have been blessed beyond measure in this area.

Although I am not at the end of the difficulty, I am confident in the future because I am sure of this: I am loved and cared for by God Himself. Psalm 17:8 “Take good care of me, just as you would your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

Mary Poppins Confessional

So… remember that little phrase on my “about “ page that I am a “recovering perfectionist”? Yes, me too.  Well, pull up a chair. I have a confession to make.

Comfortable? Good. Excuse me for being a bit fidgety but, you know, I am about to “come clean”, so be nice and bear with me? K?!

I DID say recovering, nor recovered. Some habits die hard, they say. Well, I am thinking that ALL habits die hard.

I am a doer- a worker bee extraordinaire.  Busy, busy, busy all the time- buzzing around- finding a corner to dust (wait, why did I just say that- I LOATHE dusting!!) or a counter to wipe or an email to type or a cookie to bake. Talking on the phone pains me unless I am doing the dishes or folding laundry while talking. Multi-tasker is my middle name.

Have I ever gone to coffee with you? If I have, I enjoyed it. Trust me. I love coffee and talking with a friend makes it twice as nice. Oh, how my mind does wander though… My husband pokes fun at me because he asks a question and sometimes it takes me awhile to answer. Be nice, now! I have to shut off a million other thoughts before I can get to your question. I like to think of my mind as a “old-fashioned” pinball machine; my thoughts like the shiny metal balls pinging all over the place, bouncing up to proper order when I hit them into submission with my little “get it together” levers!!!

Rest and Relaxation rarely find their place on my “to do” list. You might as well replace those words with “idleness” and “laziness”. Call it a generational curse- my mom (bless her heart) was my teacher. Her theme was: “A man’s work is from sun to sun. A woman’s work is never done.” Literally, that’s what I heard my whole growing up years. She was always working, busy and active, that is until she got very sick with cancer and was forced to rest.

Back to me…

So why, you may be asking, the confession? Am I trying to assuage a guilty conscience? Am I trying to make all of you who are NOT this way, feel like slackers? No and No. As a matter of fact, I have fallen under the heavy hand of conviction (if you will) to:

 Stop the glorification of busyness!

Because you see, as I also mentioned in the “about” page,  I am also, hmmm, just a teensy-tiny bit STUBBORN. The lesson to slow down, relax and enjoy life has been pounded into me for years. I resist. It comes back to haunt me. One of the last words of wisdom spoken by my mom was that she wished she would have spent less time cleaning and more time “playing”.

Being busy is my habit and in itself is not a bad one (better to be a hard worker than a lazy one). When it comes right down to it though, I guess you could call it my idol. Yikes! That sounds ugly and it is.

So here’s what I am learning:

  • Rest and relaxation are GOOD things. God “created” the act of resting.
  • They are necessary- not “necessary evils”- but actually needed for greater productivity in the end.
  • I have ADD and I am ok with that!:)
  • Relaxing makes me a happier, more peaceful person. (Which I am quite sure my family would nod in hearty approval to!)
  • When I don’t rest enough, I get resentful of other people who are relaxing and I expect others (meaning hubby & kids) to be right alongside me- busy, busy.
  • In my buzzing, I am likely to miss “hearing” opportunities to help or give to someone or something of a much greater value.
  • Working hard does not always mean working efficient– as brought to my attention by my ever-loving, sweet, “managerial type” hubby, in a very kind way of course!

Recovering, yes. RECOVERED, no. Learning, as we all should be, to become a better version of me. Striving to be a more “things that matter” person. Thankful, that I have energy to get things done. Remembering, that without my Master, I can do nothing of my own accord to change myself.

Thanks for listening. I hope that, maybe, just maybe if you are like me (even a little bit), you will consider this a challenge to rest. Oh and please, would you put away that chair you got out? 🙂

Listen to the Quiet

Recently, I went on a hike near our home. It was a gorgeous day trip with my sister celebrating our birthdays and another year of life together.

As we climbed our way up the mountain, there was plenty of chatting and laughing.  There were the comments about the lovely Manzanita bushes and pine trees cohabitating beautifully. There was the conversation about aging (yikes!), raising teenaged kids and living peaceably with our husbands. With only a handful of other humans nearby, it felt almost as if the mountain was ours for the taking.

 Since we are getting old –ahem- we had to stop now and then to rest. We made these stops meaningful by looking at the scenery and marveling.  At one of these moments, I exclaimed (in a bossy little sister kind of way), “Stop talking!” And we did. We just stood in the middle of the trail. Silent. That’s when I heard something I hadn’t in a long time- a quiet that transcends even the quietest moment at home or work.

With three children, a husband, a cat, a dog and my job at an elementary school, quiet is a rarity for me, especially THIS kind of quiet. It resounded in my ears in a rather oxymoronish kind of way. It enveloped me, mind and body.

What we do not realize is how downright noisy our lives are. Even in the most silent moments, there is the ever-present din of white noise- the buzz of the refrigerator, the soft hum of electronics, the ticking clock. Then there are the “people and pet” sounds. We are a noisy bunch! Video game sounds (think machine guns and zombies), music (think teenaged kids blasting stuff I am not a fan of), talking, talking, talking, the dog barking, the cat meowing, the exhaust fans, the heating/ac unit cycling on and off, etc. My ears are filled to the brim sometimes.

I crave quiet. We as humans, especially those answering to the call of “mom”, need to get quiet. Just like a plant needs both water and sunlight to survive, we were created to thrive in the noise of other people and things. If not for those, we become weird hermit -like creatures.  Yet, we must also have the renewal of a quiet that feeds the soul and nourishes the mind- the kind that envelopes us in a haven of rest, like the silence of that rocky hiking trail.