Friday, January 30, 2015

Looking forward...

Another day in paradise
Forgive me for doing one more/ hopefully last "new year" post... since the day after tomorrow is February.  Ahem.  

Well, anyway, the thing is, January 1st is not really such a good time for me to write a lot of deep, forward-thinking thoughts.  I'm still stumbling around after all the craziness of December going, "Ummm... What just happened here?"  But by the middle of January things have settled down a bit. Then comes a time that brings a couple anniversaries of things I like to remember as well as one I don't, plus the birthday of one of my favorite people in the world (Skyler), plus this year's excitement of finding out I was having another girl... and frankly it's a far more introspective and clarifying time for me.

I wrote in my last post about my desire for authenticity this year.  But there are a couple more things I'm working on as well, that you will see reflected here on the blog in various forms.  And in order to work on that "authenticity" thing, I'm going to tell you about them here.  So if you'll bear with me, here's what I'm looking forward to doing in 2015.

1. Figuring out what enough is.  Okay, truth be told, I think this is a process, so I don't think that by December 31st, I'll be able to say, "Got that one.  Check!"  But it's something I've been thinking about in these areas: 
  • Learning to set and be comfortable with boundaries I create.  I lean heavily toward being a people-pleaser; I am not good with boundaries.  I usually just smile and say, "It's fine!" through gritted teeth... until it's obvious to everyone around me that it's not fine any more.   And then it gets ugly.  Sometimes very ugly.  The thought of setting boundaries as a pre-emptive move tears me all up inside.  When I do say something firm -- "This is what I'm going to do." or "I don't think that's a good idea." -- I spend hours, if not days, agonizing over it ("Will they still like me?") or stewing about the fact that I had to say it at all ("I shouldn't have had to say that was not a good idea!").   I want to be someone who can say things I believe without agony or ugliness.  I know this is going to take a lot of work and prayer.
  • Determining better what "enough" is as far as our possessions go.  A couple years ago, as we were anticipating another move, I started to think a lot about what we had versus what we actually needed.  I started examining my shopping motives and reading things that really made me stop and think, like The Daily Connoisseur's 10 Item Wardrobe... which led me to other blogs like Un-Fancy and The Project 333.  And those led me to books... Anyway.  I'm getting ahead of myself.  But basically, I came to realize that we had a lot more than we needed. I've swung wildly from, "Hey, we're cool, we don't need anything..." to "I MUST BUY EVERYTHING IN SIGHT!"  I think I'm learning the balance, or at least starting down the right path at long last.  And it's a good path to be on.  I hope to learn more this year, and share here what I'm learning.
  • Along those lines... Practicing better stewardship of our resources.  By this I mean, learning to use what we have creatively and responsibly.  I know we lack no good thing, but we are having our fifth baby this year.  It's kind of a "gotta-do" situation.  I'll be sharing ways I'm trying to do this here on the blog.
2. Trusting.  I don't do trust well either.  I do worrying great, though.  There are things that I can see coming this year that are big and vastly important (like... oh, you know... having a baby) that take mountains of trust.  But also trusting God for the little things, or things I feel anxious about in the coming years (my eldest heading to college, for instance.  *sob*).  Yeah, I need a LOT of work here.  You'll see some writing here about times when I have learned about trust, or what I'm finding.  I hope you have some insight to share with me as well!

3.  Obedience. Okay, I really don't do obedience well.  My dog Milo is a dachshund, and while I usually love his (many) neuroses and think there is no better breed... He can drive me cuckoo.  He'll stand outside barking at who-knows-what, and I will stand at the door calling and calling him.  He gives me this look like, "In a minute, Mom.  Can't you see I'm busy?" and goes back to barking, and I want to tear my hair out.  BUT, I'm kind of just like him.  God might be nudging me toward doing something, and I stand there ignoring Him as long as I can.  I'm busy with my own stuff.  This year, I want to be more receptive to the proddings and nudgings (I don't think God usually talks to me in a booming voice) and moving on them quickly.  I don't expect this to be easy.

So that's what I'm working on and moving towards!  I hope you join me on my journey here!  What goals are you striving toward this year?

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Real Deal

To illustrate what I'm saying here: me, just now, bed unmade, tilted camera, mirror needs cleaning, feeling both big and slightly under-the-weather and in need of sleep and lipstick.  
Lately, a lot of the bloggers/ writers I follow have been talking about their word-of-the-year.  They've chosen really great words like "Simplify", "Focus" and "Intentional" (isn't that totally the word right now??  It's seriously everywhere!). Those are all things I want for my life, but no one of them really felt right for me.

But then the other day something kind of funny happened.  I posted (on Instagram and FB) this pic of Wyatt running out of our house and through our lovely, Pleasantville neighborhood in skivvies.
Add caption
It may not be the best picture or most flattering portrait of my skills a mother, but it was a moment that needed to captured because it's now, and who my son is, and what my life is about.  

So I was kind of surprised when someone suggested that I had gone back and re-enacted the scene so I could get a picture.

I think she was being funny.  I found it funny anyway.  Hilarious, even.  Because:
1) I have four kids and am pregnant with #5.  I have just enough energy -- sometimes, if I'm lucky -- to get through the day.
2) We homeschool, have extra-curricular activities, friends, and so on, and I (try, anyway, to) make real, whole food meals for all of us. These things take time, lots and lots of time.
These two reasons alone should give ample reason to say, "Re-enact a scene so I can Instagram it?  Ain't nobody got time {or energy} for that!" 
 BUT, also,
3) We live in a nice neighborhood. Oh, did I say that already?  The fact that this happened once is embarrassing enough.  I don't need to relive it just for my Instagram account.

I realize the third reason begs the question then, Why did I take this picture?  (Well, maybe first I should have added that just out of the frame was Skyler, who had recently headed out, and Wyatt was running after her?  So it's not like his life was in danger or anything as I snapped this.)  But as for why: because it happened and I had my phone with me, and taking a picture helps me get some perspective, remember my sense of humor, and sort of distance myself from the moment so I can react with a little more clarity.

But the bottom line, which makes the comment that much more ironic?  

And the truth is, I think most people want me to be real, too.  I want the people around me to be real.  It's hard because there are plenty of voices telling us that we need to be perfect and measure up to so-and-so, and it gets very tiring.  Some of those voices come from people we love, too, whose opinions do affect us. This idea of perfection builds up walls that keep us from connecting, and pedestals that are all too easy to fall from. But when we are honest about our weaknesses and struggles, we connect, don't we?  We all breathe a little easier and smile a little bigger and love a little more honestly.  

I go through life stumbling around, sometimes succeeding and often failing.  I feel like I can't pretend to be perfect or make claims to something I'm not because I'll have dozens of people calling me out.  As they should.  

Reality isn't always pretty.  I'm someone who loves her kids to pieces... But sometimes I lose my temper and yell more than I should.  I'm a vegetarian, interested in eating and living healthy... But I like (okay, love) sugar, cheese, and ice-cream.  I don't have a perfectly clean home.  I don't have a perfect marriage.  I'm not a "perfect Christian". 

But a few days ago was the seventeen-year anniversary of my granddad's death.  His last words to me were, "Something bad is going to happen [on the trip I was leaving on], but remember, no matter what happens, when it's all over, you'll have a good story."

My granddad was a wonderful man, but he wasn't perfect.  And the stories he told -- as we drove in the car or sat around the dinner table -- were, more often than not, about his failures and missteps.  We laughed about them, and we learned from them.  I think we all learned grace from him.

It's not easy for me to say or do the following because it's easier to listen to all those exhausting voices that tell me to show people the "perfect" me.  But for 2015, I want to become more authentic, less ashamed to show the real, goofy, messy, uncoordinated, impatient me.  

Several years ago, I would walk my dog on the same route every day.  On that route, I met this woman, and I'm not kidding, I held a conversation with her (for a few minutes) almost every day.  Of course, I was in my work-out clothes, with my hair pulled back and no make-up.  But I was completely shocked (and a little embarrassed) when I ran into her somewhere else and started chatting with her, assuming she knew who I was -- until she said, "I'm sorry... I don't think I know you..." I want you to recognize me, no matter what circumstance or occasion we meet.

On the one hand, it's hard because I'm afraid of what people will think of me.  I know my fear of authenticity -- of anything less-than-picture-perfect (in other words, almost everything) -- has been holding me back from blogging and writing more.  I would rather show someone much better than who I am, the person I want to be rather than who I still am -- only the "After" picture in my extreme makeover.  But if I do that? Honestly?  Nothing is ever going happen.  

So I think my word for the year is "Authentic".  I think this is what I've been wanting more of for a long time; I didn't name this blog "Perfect Joy", and that was very intentional.  (Sorry, that word! I just couldn't help myself.) I want to learn to be more comfortable with being real even when it isn't pretty, or simple, or graceful, or flawless, or... even, especially... Pin-worthy. I want to share my weaknesses because they show all the spaces where Grace fills my life and covers me.  

{"But He said to me: 'My grace is sufficient for you.  For My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 

1 Corinthians 12:9}

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Think pink!

We had our 20-week sonogram last week!  I think it's one of my favorite parts of pregnancy.  I could spend all day watching my little ones move before I've ever truly seen them or held them in my arms.  It appears things are going very well, for which I am ever so thankful.  And... (Because we are impatient "peekers")... it's a girl!!

I really didn't care one way or the other.  Since I now have both, I knew I would love and be thrilled with either a boy or a girl.  In my mind, it made sense to me that I as having a boy.  I thought, I've had three girls.  Now it will be a second boy.  Plus, this baby seems to be big, and Wyatt was my big baby -- 9 lbs 5 ozs at his birth a week early -- while my older girls were between 7 lbs 10 ozs and 8 lbs.

But I kept having dreams about a girl baby.  I've had some really vivid dreams that I hope never come true, but these were little "glimpse" moments where I was kissing her cheeks her hearing her laugh -- good dreams.  Exactly like I had with Wyatt about him being a boy even though I'd had three girls, starting twelve years before.  It seemed weird to think I would have a boy with all these dreams, like my body being in total conflict with my mind.  So I feel a bit relieved just to think it makes sense this way.

Anyway, we are very thankful... and excited!  Little girl clothes again!! (*Squeal*!)  :-)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Looking back...

{old pic from when I lived in Washington}
I think I've been subconsciously putting off this post for a long time.  Because looking back at last year isn't the easiest.

I've said before that it wasn't ever any single catastrophe that made it hard.  And to be honest, I'm very grateful for that.  It was just rather like walking through a swamp.  Stinky, sticky, every step taking five times more energy than it should because you sink a little every you put your foot down.  I told a few close friends that it was The Year of Bad Surprises.  Everything that looked good and promising -- new friendships, kids' activities, churches -- dead-ended at best while some things sort of blew up in our faces.  There was even a minor health scare (that didn't seem the least bit "minor" at the time).  

I would rather look at the last few months of the year, when things started to look up. We moved into a new house, made better friendships, I got pregnant, etc., but to ignore those first months as I talk about 2014 would be to leave out part of the story. 

This time last year, I was reading several blogs that talked about their "words of the year."  If anything, it depressed me even more.  I didn't have an inspired word. It was taking all my energy just to get through that swamp! But as the year ended, the word God was giving me (or us, my family) was "Restore".  I keep thinking of Psalm 23:2-3 -- "He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul."  Last year, I was tired, and scared of what was ahead.  Now, I can still get scared -- of course, because we're talking about me, and especially at 2 am when fears suddenly grow and tower over me the way shadows did when I was little.  But I can also see what God did -- powerful, rebuilding work in my very weary heart -- and know that He is able. That He cares enough to fix all the broken in my life, to sweeten the bitter and even put "icing on the cake" sometimes.

I don't know everything this year has in store for me, and I'm not 100% sure of my "word" for 2015 yet.  But if I could sit down with you and share all the gory details of last year, my prayer is that you would walk away from our conversation with more energy and hope -- not just because of what was done for me but also what I've seen God do for others.  And I also pray if you're in a "swamp", it won't be long before you can see the still waters, too.