Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fear

It's hard for me to even recognize fear, but i'm getting better at it.
Since i started diligently working out and working on muscles, flexibility, strength, agility and just general athleticism over the past few years, there have been a few times that i've surprised myself. One of them stands out to me. Two winters ago, Neil took me downhill skiing for the first time in at least twenty years. i wasn't an awesome skier by any stretch as a kid, and then with the time that has passed, i thought i would spend the day sliding down a hill on my bum... We got to the top of the first run, and i started skiing down... and to my shock, i kept up. My legs moved where i wanted them to. i was fast and confident and it felt easy... We got to the bottom and Neil looked at me with a funny look on his face. "Neil!" i gasped, "i'm AWESOME at this!!"
He kinda laughed, but my shock was sincere... i hadn't given any credit at all to the fact that i work out daily and that i *should* be able to do some things.
i've always been the one who sat out during beach volleyball. My reflexes are terrible. i LOVE individual sports that take stamina and grit (hiking, running, biking) but team sports have never been my jam... i'm always afraid that i'll stand out as the weakest link, the one who brings the team down... the one they wish would just sit out, the one who gets hit, but never hits the ball.
And i have hardly ever recognized my unwillingness to participate as fear. i've named it other things, (i'm too busy, i'm just not good enough, they don't need me...) i've hidden behind my babies. i've told myself i'd rather not.
Lately, i've looked at some of these things with a little bit of raw honesty... It's not that i don't want to teach music... it's that i'm afraid that i'm not good enough. It's not that i don't want to leave my house, it's that i hate being alone, i'm kind of afraid of it. These past few years, i've obeyed when God has asked me to stretch out my neck and enter into the fray, and you know what? Those experiences weren't all as successful as that first day out skiing. It has been painful, and rejection has made my cheeks burn and my fears scream because they found out they were well founded. It HURTS to hold out your hand and nobody shakes it. Anytime you try anything, you might be left hanging, you might be the weak link, you might fail, you might be rejected.
But i'm starting...
i'm accepting when my son challenges me to a push-up competition. I try a box jump that seems huge. I do the monkey bars and i work on my chin ups...
i'm so, so tired of lacking the confidence to just try...
So, i think i will.
A friend posted a quote on FB that said, "The prophetic doesn't tell you what to do, it awakens who you are." I think i'm ready to wake up.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

More On Setting Goals

i have a few friends who have kind of *courageously* plucked lovely little pieces of life as they have mothered and homeschooled little broods not unlike mine. i've always looked at my mama friends who were able to balance a lot of lovely little add-ons as something 'other' than me. Some had interesting careers, some gardens, handiwork, volunteer work for organizations that stretched their hearts... They seemed to be able to find direction and just... fly.  And i? Felt the stillness of the air around me as i kept my two feet planted firmly on the ground. 
I knew that God had, in this season, planted me thus, partly because of my husband's career - which has been demanding and full of strange hours and travelling... and God knew that i needed to be here, and available for the people He had asked me to serve. 
But I was talking to one of these friends the other day about goal setting. I was trying to encourage her. Because i'm a few years older, and past some of the sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion that she's in the midst of, i feel like i have a bit of perspective. She had said she felt a bit scattered this year, and i replied, "Yea, and your focus is a little different out of necessity - with so many tinies... You're still just so good at reaching out and grabbing at life. i'm not." 
As a little background; this is a mom who has worked as an LPN, organized an entire event that still occurs annually surrounding early infant death and still birth in her area that has impacted hundreds of families. This is a woman who with a house full of children, upgraded her LPN with a foot-care class so that she could better serve the people in her community who needed her. Then, when the time came, she extended her maternity leave so she could stay home and homeschool. Then last year, she dove into starting her own little home side business. This is a woman who just gets things done. 
She messaged me back and challenged me, "i feel like you are though?"
i couldn't see it... i saw lost opportunities, or failed offerings or long seasons of watching and tending a homefire that needed care... "We'll see..." i replied, "i'm willing... but it's so hard to SEE where He wants me to take steps!" 
"I think maybe we're all like that, but to others it looks like we're grabbing at life?! Your book. Your website. Your blog. Your music course. Your other music offerings. Your kids. Your workouts."

And suddenly, in a little puff of encouragement, i could see myself differently. Not with a track record of pathetic little failed offerings, but instead, with a fist full of lovely little blossoms of life that God has allowed me to grasp, and breathe in their fragrance... (and sometimes let go of too). And a lot of these little blossoms came about because i took the time to be quiet and ask for direction, and pursue the things that brought me joy for His glory. So, in light of the new year, and resolutions and fresh beginnings, i want to share some of the thoughts that i have on goal setting. 

For starters, I try to pick something that I wouldn't normally do if I didn't resolve to do it! When I wanted to learn to run, I signed up for a 10k race. I had never done anything like that before, but by resolving to run a 10k, I knew I would gain a neat experience that would teach me about running! i'm never gonna forget my littles cheering for me as my feet pounded that trail. It was a fantastic goal that gave me joy in it's pursuit. This year, i made a resolution to complete 365 workouts in 2017! Now, normally - i would work out lots, and i'd have lots of active rest and rest days too! But i was inspired by another mama of 8 who completed the challenge to, "push play every day" and so i joined in! i'm looking forward to seeing the impact that this goal has on my life. 


Secondly, I try to choose goals that have measurable outcomes! For example, instead of, "eat healthier", I might make it my goal to hit certain macros 5 days a week! Macros are something that i  can measure, and when I track my macros, it helps me be mindful of the big picture of my nutrition. This year, i didn't have a burning desire to get finicky about my nutrition, so i went a different direction. i wanted to write more... but i have felt unable to these past few years, so I made it my goal to write on my blog once a week. By the end of the year, i should have 52 tiny snapshots of thought in 2017... and i hope i get to be a better writer in the process.

I also try to choose goals that have an ending. One year, I wanted to write a book, so I thought hard about what message was important enough to write about. After that, I chose a vehicle (simple story line) that I could use to communicate that message. That January, I signed up for Nanowrimo. It was a way to commit a chunk of time to write. The chunk of time was the month of November. My husband and kids knew I had committed to it and they were supportive and patient with me while I gave it my all for that month. At the end of the month, I had completed my first rough draft. It's not a New York Times bestseller, but it's a little piece of my worldview that I wanted to capture... and I did it! If it had been an open ended goal, i might have lost heart, but because there was an end in sight, i could focus on that task and my family could support me knowing it wouldn't last forever. i really would love to do Nanowrimo again another year, but i know that this year is just not the right time. This year, my daughters challenged me to read a 365 day devotional... My three oldest daughters are 20, 18 and 16. One is married, another enrolled at a local college and the third one is my lone public schooled kid. They are always going in different directions, and there is such a comfort in looking at scripture and knowing their eyes are reading it too. It's a one year commitment... but only a year. We can finish strong because we know we can *finish*.

Finally, I try to look at different areas of my life and decide where I need a little push. Sometimes I make goals to be consistent with a certain area of homeschool, sometimes it's a spiritual goal, sometimes an area in my marriage needs attention... fitness, home organization, passions, friendships, parenting... they are all different areas that are sometimes strong, sometimes weak - all in seasons... Sometimes i look at my goals and think they seem a little shallow... Sometimes they are goals that have the potential to wreck and challenge and change me at my very core. Both kinds of goals have their place... they truly do.

And so i guess looking back, i have made my little grabs at life. And i intend on continuing to do so with courage and intention - as we welcome the blessing of a new year.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Remember when?

I was getting dressed in the morning and Elmer looked at me earnestly, "Momma, remember when i used to like boo so much?"
"Yeah, i remember that. It was a long time ago, eh? i'm surprised YOU can remember that..."
i was mentally calculating how long it has been since he weaned around his third birthday... Almost seven months.
"I remember." He said solidly, "i was a baby."
"Yeah, i guess you were."
"And when i was a baby, my name was Jack."
So maybe not all his memories are entirely accurate.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

forgiveness

Forgiveness is such a tricky thing.
In a moment, it's given - but i think so many of us fail to consider what kind of a commitment we're making when we give forgiveness. It works more like a promise than a one time gift: a promise to work through - persistently, carefully, thoughtfully - whatever grief or sorrow comes later as a result of the wrong done.
i lamented some residual anger that i had to deal with to my mom. i told her that sometimes a feeling like that will take me by surprise, "Didn't i already deal with that?" But God just digs in deeper; revealing another opportunity to grow. My mom's response was, "it's like, ok, can you do it with your hands tied now? Trigonometry... haha!"
And it reminded me of an analogy i read earlier today about growth. That phrase, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has always irked me. I've often allowed myself to view my sorrows like a poison... Sure, maybe i'm alive, but i'm weaker as a result. Their analogy was comparing brokenness to muscle growth (i heart muscle growth). She said, the way we grow muscles when we work them, is that the fibres literally tear and our body takes that cue to repair the muscle stronger (bigger, better) than it was before. i often think of that a day or two after after a crazy good workout. It hurts differently than it did during the workout. i'm SORE and those tears HURT... But, my body has taken those times of rebuilding and has made my muscles bigger... stronger...
It's the eve of a new year.
And it's so funny to find myself grateful for every workout... physical and spiritual... that has torn down the very fibres of my body and the fabric of my heart... and allowed me to greet this new year stronger than before.

Monday, July 18, 2016

purpose

Life is strange.
i was born with a fire in my belly...  but i remember being eleven or twelve and becoming in a season, lonely for death. Life felt heavy, and for whatever reason, i felt overwhelmed by it.
i was so little - and even now, i wonder what it was that bruised my young heart to make me feel something i've never felt - even briefly - since then.  Whatever it was, it increased my ability to empathize with others who have felt a longing for endings in longer lasting seasons than i ever experienced, and for that, i'm grateful. Before that short lived season of 'ending', and after it... i've felt nothing but a passionate hunger for life: i don't want to miss any, i want to learn, think, see, hear... i want to do, to become, to grow, to laugh... In a lot of ways, i see life the same way i've seen my fertility: i'll never be the girl who said, "Well, that's enough of that..."
i think most people think about the timeline of their life at big milestone birthdays... "i'm 40... if i live to be 80, that means i'm half way there..."
So, in the shower i whispered to God words that are truer than any whispered anxiously in that season where i didn't understand that God had a purpose and a plan for tiny awkward me, and that i needed to be here to fulfil it. My voice sounded strange and soft as the steam rose around me with the sound of cartoons babbling incoherently from my bedroom, "God? i know you know what you're doing... but i need to say it out loud..."
No kids came running at the sound of my voice. Praying, or singing, shouting and rapping are all accepted practices in our showers - and i'm grateful for the grace afforded in this accomodation. Dancing is frowned upon, but mostly for practical reasons. Nobody wants a concussion... My sister tells me that God often hangs out in her shower too... This doesn't surprise me - that He would be available in the vulnerability that comes when a mother finds herself - if she's lucky - alone for a moment. We reach for Him like our littles reach for us, and find Him willing.  Today there were no operatic trills or growled spoken word versification... It was just a thought; one that i felt it was important to share with the One who breathes life.
"i want to live..."
& i know that He knows this already, because i often tell Him how grateful i am for my life, and how much i enjoy the work that He's allowed me to put my hands to.
"i want to live till i'm really, really old. i want to work hard and be fruitful... i want every breath that you'll give me, and if i get a vote in the matter... i just want it to be on the record that i told you how much i want to live."
i waited for an answer, a fluctuation in the temperature as the water ran over me, baptizing me into a new decade... washing away my fear, pulling away the fingers from my eyes as i discover this new me... whose evolution is as exciting as it is disconcerting.
i felt that familiar fire build and glow in my belly. A longing and a desire to live fully, to become like Him, to surrender completely.  It's a fire i once ascribed to youth, but now recognize as my purpose. The fire grows with me, unhindered by the age of my bones or the remaining elasticity of my flesh. He put it there, and my faith has stoked the flames and allowed them to grow over time. It's not leaving me, but instead, through Him, it leads me.
He hears.
And no matter what He chooses for me, it will be best - and i? i choose Him.

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