Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A lesson learned walking in the shadows of post-crisis


Although I've been heard saying 2012 was one of -- if not the -- hardest year of my life, now that I have endured 2013, I change my answer. 2013 was harder. It was a year of living in the gray shadows of the drama of 2012.

In 2012, I felt pulled and tugged in many different directions. The two major events were four bonus kids for nine weeks and Kip's dad being in the hospital for 5 months. During these times, I have never felt more exhausted in my life. Physically. Spiritually. Emotionally. Responsibility-wise.

Yet during this time, people surrounded us. People noticed us. Hauling eight children around is quite noticeable. Having four children in hospital waiting rooms is also quite noticeable. In addition, the family of God surrounded us with prayers, cards, gifts, and hands-on-support. It was beautiful.

Many memorable moments of deliverance were woven into our lives.

Then in 2013, things quieted down. Quite thankfully! I no longer wrote daily on the Caring Bridge website. I no longer texted desperate pleas for immediate prayer. I had time to sleep. I had time to cry. 

Yet, it felt harder than it had before. 

That was so strange to me.

Was it because I like being center stage? Was it that people prayed more during that time? Was I more spiritual then? Did I have my focus in a better place?

Or perhaps it was something else.

Not that I had sinned. Not that I had fallen from grace. Not that I needed attention.  

Instead I am re-learning to walk by faith after a long season of flying on eagle's wings.

Isaiah 40:31 says, "Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary."

It feels strange. As though I am walking on land after riding on a boat or a roller coaster for a long time. Familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. I have walked on land most of my life. As most of my life has also been non-crisis.

But what is truly different is that I haven't walked in daily life after crisis before.  I am walking in the land of shadows, both in the shadow of the drama of 2012 and in the shadow of the valley of death.

It has felt strange this walking in the strange, gray shadows. He is still sustaining. Still giving grace. Still making me aware of how much I need him.

But now I am learning to walk in this new place. Not a place of grieving from far away, as it was with my brother-in-law's death. But this time a place of grieving from nearby and up-close and personal. And from a responsible human being perspective.

He is still sustaining. But I don't need wings anymore so I'm relearning the walk of faith from here on this side of the strange, gray shadow lands. A needed walk, step-by-step.

Walking in the land of gray shadows. Learning what it means to walk by faith after having been mounted on eagle's wings.

What lessons have you learned walking in the shadows of difficult seasons?
 
Also linking with Jen at SDG. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ten thoughts for ten years of home education



Since the beginning of their school years, I have been educating my children at home. We have almost completed 10 years. If all goes as planned, I have 10 more to go. So in light of a half-way milestone, here are ten random thoughts about our last ten years in relation to learning. I don't know that this perspective or the things that I have learned are exclusive to home educators. I imagine parents of children who have been learning for ten years would have similar thoughts.

Ten Random Thoughts on Learning


1)  I have loved all the books that I have met through home schooling. My life has been greatly enhanced through the quality of books that I have found. I have always loved to read but, boy, I sure missed a bunch of treasures. I have no idea why. All of these great books are some of the best reasons for home schooling. So glad that I didn't miss out for a lifetime.

2) Teaching a child to read has been one of the highlights of my entire life. I've had the privilege four times. It's as grueling and exhilarating as giving birth --laborious and glorious!

3) Teaching my children at home has been easier and harder than I ever imagined. I remember the feeling of jumping off the homeschool cliff into so many unknowns. It's been easier than I thought because there are so many guides and resources available. Yet, it has been hard to navigate the management of a household, the curriculum, and the relationships all at once, all day, every day.

4) Home education provides flexibility. How this translates into real living is that not a lot of math problems actually get solved in the ICU waiting room. But some do. It also gives a chance for the grandchildren to bring joy and hope like nothing else to a struggling-to-breathe grandpa. Plus, some math did get done. Maybe as much as a distracted grandchild separated from the situation? In addition, we can keep right on going at that child's speed, taking time for math lessons missed during real life lesson time.

5) It is easy to feel like a failure when one is behind on lessons, the house is dirty, and grandpa still can't breathe. It is hard to be flexible with life's demands. It's hard to get behind on lessons, to have a dirty house. It's the best and worst of times.

6) The greatest personal growth has been the self-employment aspect. I don't make a very good school bell. I do really well finding out what the teacher or the employer wants and delivering it to them. Therefore, it has been different to be the teacher, the school bell, the one to enforce the deadlines for papers.

7) I am thankful for all of the people who we have met on this journey. I love the out-of-the-box creative thinkers. I love the support group where we pray for one another, challenge our thinking, and belly laugh together. I am a richer, better woman.

8) I've loved the learning--my learning. I've enjoyed creating an atmosphere where the children love to learn. I love reading picture books that explain things like clouds, popcorn, and how the inside of the human body works.  I love to explore and observe. I've loved having a front row seat to watching my children learn and bloom in their skills.

9) My favorite time of day right now is snuggling next to my eight-year-old and reading aloud together. The worst school days are those when I'm too busy for the best part.

10) The reasons that I started are not the same as the ones that have kept me going. I began with mostly academic pursuits in mind. I have kept on going due to the amount of time for the family to be together.

What are your reflections of learning in  your life?
Click here or scroll down to join us in the comments.

Also linking with Jen at SDG.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How listening can help you find what you were made to do

Running a very wet half marathon last April with my husband and daughter

I love to run. When I am able, I like to set aside an hour, or longer, to run on Saturdays. I settle into the rhythmic pace. My muscles warm up. I breathe deep and think, "I am made to do this."

Instantly, I reject this idea.

My thoughts sneer at me, "You'll never win a race. You're slow. How can you even think that you are made to do this?"

It is true that I've never won a race. And that I only ran on the junior varsity of my high school cross country team. It is also true that I am the slowest in my family. Yet, I feel good when I run slow for 4 to 8 miles.

My body instinctively knows that I am made to do this. However, because I'm slower than others, I dismiss this innate sense of what I was 'made to do.' My head rejected this urge based on the interpretation of the data.

It is true that I am slower than many others but that doesn't make it true that I am not suppose to be doing it.

As quick as a pain reflex, my mind concluded that I wasn't made to do this based on comparing myself to others: I am not fast, and I haven't ever won a race. Therefore, I cannot say that I am made to do this.

These thoughts reveal an underlying assumption that it is only worth doing things when you are better than others. Plus, an assumption that it is particularly worth doing if you will win.

These assumptions cause me to look to others, or to a standard, to define my significance rather than what I am suppose to be about in my life.

Though I know that it is unwise to compare myself to others, I hadn't realized until now that in comparing myself to others I was dismissing clues to my calling. I was overlooking these almost imperceptible urges  about the true callings of my life.

How many other clues have I missed?  What else am I believing that it is not worth doing unless I am first? Unless it is big? Unless others will notice? Unless I have a chance at the gold medal?

Not everything that we were made to do will win a gold medal.

But it is hard to embrace this. It is hard to 'run' a pace that my husband can walk. It is hard to be the one who gets the whole family to go for a run but then I am the last one home. It is hard to run consistently and still be so much slower than my husband. It is hard to jog a steady pace and have walkers out-pace me.

It is also hard to hear the small, quiet voice inside of you telling you what you were made to do, especially if you aren't first. Especially if you never win a blue ribbon. Especially if everybody else is better than you.

But it is worth it to listen to the clues.  To learn what it is that we were made to do. To find the works that He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

I need to stop looking at others. Stop comparing. Start listening to the clues about what the true callings of my life are. Even if I will never win a race.

What about you?  Have you missed any clues to your calling?
Join us in the comments and share your thoughts.
Also linking with Jen at SDG.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Blank White Wall

I scrubbed the blank white wall tonight.
I scrubbed. I cried. And the Spirit convicted.

I rubbed the wall. I wanted it to be clean. Almost desperate, my strokes were vigorous I didn't want it to be drab, so I scrubbed those stains. Mustering up all my elbow grease to make the wall better.

I really didn't want it to be like her house.

"Why Kathleen?" came nudge of the Spirit's in a thought.

Because I didn't want to be like her.

"Why is that Kathleen? I died for her just as much as I died for you."

And I cried.

Because I knew that the desire not to be like her energized my cleaning.
I didn't want such a run-down place.
I want my house to look like the magazines.

But...instead.. it seems my house is more like hers.
Which might mean that I am more like her than I dare admit.

And that is why I scrub so hard tonight.

I swallow the lump in my throat and continue to scrub.
But not quite as hard.

She does not turn anyone's head when she walks by. Neither do I.
She doe not have recruiters banging down her door to offer her a job. Neither do I.

Her appearance, her life is not together. It is not a life any of us strive for. My life? Well, perhaps it makes for a better appearance but is it truly better? Does it really hinge on a clean white wall?

I might be more like her than I dare to admit.

She is a mom.
Me, too.
She is married.
Yep, I share this too.
She cares about her kids. She's proud of them.
Uh-huh. Of course I share this, too. 

She is the one who invited me to her house and welcomed me in as if I was one of them. She smiles at me. She has brought me shoes when she heard me complaining about the lack of shoes that my children have. She has been kinder to me than I have been to her.

Then these words came to mind:

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7b

I am guilty. I look at outward appearances. 

I scrub my walls wishing them to look like designer walls featured in Better Homes and Garden. When in truth, they are downcast and scrubby. More like hers. Perhaps I should admit that I am more like her and actually be more like her: welcoming, inviting, giving.

Forgive me Lord for judging by outward appearances. 
Change my heart, O God. 
Thank you for humbling me through the scrubbing of a white, blank wall.
Amen.

Linking with Jen and the SDG women.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

When Hibernation Gives Strength to Face the New Year


It's eleven days into the new year and my calendar is still blank. I am Hibernating and Pretending that nothing is calling my name. The empty boxes declare to me that each day is a new slate to spend the way I want. No one has pre-determined my course for the day. For the month. For the year.

The cold temps of this past week have contributed to the delinquency of catching up my calendar. Colder temperatures have visited Nashville this past week than they have in a couple of decades. This led to Cancellations and Delays, including my continued pretense that I live a non-busy life.

For the past two weeks, I have not been called hither and yon. I've stayed home since the family left-town. It was a beautiful holiday season twinged with sadness, tension, and beauty. Lots of beauty and gifts. Yet, the days following the holidays have been my favorite.


My husband had a few days off from work that we did not squander in travel but spent at home all together. The children rejoiced at just being home altogether with no place to go, no work projects to do. Instead we were just together. Sometimes playing a game. Sometimes reading. Sometimes doing our own creative thing.. We watched several movies. What a treat! We just hung out at home. Then, my husband returned to work, and the kids and I have gradually gotten back to our duties, too.

Due to the cold temps my usual activity whirlwind was suspended just enough longer to hunker down still for the second week of January. I had just enough social contact to keep me sane. Yet, the rest from swirling activities and trying to keep up and not miss anything has been a balm to my soul. It has been like taking a Great. Big. Deep. Breath. Can you hear my soul breathing a sigh of relief from there?

Usually, it is hard for me to stay home because I feel like I am missing out on something. I want to participate! I want to have fun! Therefore these cold-weather cancellations gave permission to plant my feet right here at home where I have wanted to be with no expectation from anyone in the Southern regions to move at all. Hiding and hibernation are exactly what everyone is doing. It's all the rage!

I couldn't find this more than fabulous even though I grew up in Minnesota where they didn't cancel for cold weather!?! Are you crazy? Life would be shut down for half of the year if they did that Up North. But here in the Southland, things shut down in the cold and snow. Or, at the very least slow down for just  a little while, because we can. We simply hunker down with the Southern Natives and wait a few days for it to thaw out. We always hope that our milk and bread supply is sufficient because snow forecasts cause a run on the grocery stores down here. The other great prayer to pray is for one's pipes NOT to  freeze! Insulation grades are not the same Down Here as they are Up There.

I've gladly taken these contributions to my Hibernation Mode. These few days of slowing down, cancellations, and lesser expectations. It's just what I've needed to face the blank slate of the New Year.

And as it warms up, I guess the ink will flow once again onto the January calendar. I can hide and pretend for only so long that the responsibilities, activities, and to-do lists are not yet calling my name.

Soon enough it will be time to write the upcoming events of our beautiful life on the calendar. But for now I tip my black snow hat and raise my cup of Chai tea to the cold. I will trust that this deep soul breath will help strengthen me for the days ahead as I head off into the whirlwind activity that will come in due time but not today. Not yet.
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How about you? How's the start of your January been?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The One Thing That I Miss From Crisis {day 19}

Balloons to say goodbye to Papa.
We lived in Crisis Mode for a year or so. Now, a few months removed from that season I find myself still missing One Thing from then. What?! Can that be? Did I just write that?

What is it that I miss? Daily visits to the hospital or the guilt if we didn't make it that day? Exhaustion to a degree I had never physically known?

No, none of that.

But I do miss the clarity of crisis. Crystal clear decision-making about what I needed to do.

Go to the hospital.
Feed the children.

That could be the entirety of my to-do list for a day. It would also take the entirety of my energy and focus. Or the list could be:

Take children to events so life seems more normal.
Or buy groceries. Just buy groceries today.

Unless, of course, a phone call came and set us spinning in another direction. I don't miss that. I don't miss not being able to plan. I don't miss the medical set-backs and unknowns. Yet somehow life seemed more free. There would be the times that I would just need to go home. Even if there were no groceries and  no plan for dinner. Home was what I needed that day. All six of us needed it.

I miss knowing with certainty that what I was doing -- whether it be a hospital visit or buying groceries -- it was what I was called to do that day. It is strange to think that during a time when I couldn't keep up with all the details of my life and would forget things such as my turn to bring snacks to choir and that during a time that I found it hard to smile that I actually miss something from that time.

I have pondered about this and wondered if there was a way to bring the Clarity of the Crisis Mode into every day. I certainly have not done a good job of this. There have been days when I've been paralyzed by the ideas and choices swirling around in my head, trying to decide what is best about things that don't really matter. 

Crisis Mode brought a clarity to the needs of the day. The urgent was the important. It was easy to be about the important, the eternal, when life hung in the balance.

Most days it is easy to get tossed about by urgent distractions that pull me away from what is really important. Yet, now I have discerned the key of the clarity in crisis: the urgent and the important were the same. This brings hope to my every day life.

If I can find the important -- whether or not it is urgent -- then I can again be about the important, eternal things in my corner of the world.

Even though there have been moments when I have been paralyzed by the swirling ideas and choices in my head, I have known even now in the months since Crisis has slowed down that I have been about important things. I have been about tending to the many things which were not tended to during the months of Crisis Distraction.

And so... these days I have been organizing my home, spending time with my children, focusing on my husband, reading my Bible, praying, writing, running, making food, and staying home.

While I long to reach out and connect some more with friendships that have been neglected during the last while, I trust that with time  I'll once again be able to look out beyond the realms of our home again.

Unless, of course, the phone rings again and sends us spinning in an altogether different direction.

Yet, for today, I am thankful for the cozy at-home day we had today.

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How about you? Have you ever been surprised by a longing for some aspect of a difficult time in your life? Join the conversation in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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This post continues my thoughts of ICU Lessons of Faith. As I write posts about the lessons of faith in My Clarence Chronicles Series, I will continue to number the days of my postings and list them on Day 1's Index Page. But I will also begin to spread my wings and begin to write of other things in this space, too.

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Join me at Jen's place for other women writing for His glory? I find it to be a place of encouragement, perhaps you will, too.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Top 5 Blog Posts in 2013

Well, well, well... another year has come to a close. In reflection and celebration, I am listing my top 5 Blog Posts that had the most views for 2013 that I actually wrote in 2013. All of them revolve around the health crisis event we experienced with my father-in-law essentially being in the ICU for four months. May they provide hope for the readers. Click on the titles of the post to read them.

 #5 Post: For Days We Feel Like Crying



May the words of this post encourage someone else so that they know that they are not alone. There are days when we all feel like crying.

Sometimes in this past year when I have felt like crying; I have wondered if it is left-over sadness that didn't have time to come out as tears when the crisis actually happened.

#4 Post: A Taste of Normal in a Sea of Unknowns



If your life has ever been turned upside down, perhaps you will enjoy this post as I explore how nice it felt one day in the ICU to see a bit of old normal in the topsy-turvy world of medical unknowns.

Learning to take the moment of peace when it is offered is a gift.

#3 Post: Stories of Faith from the ICU


In September of 2012, my father-in-law had a tumor removed from his brain stem that began a four-month journey in three different hospitals and one rehab unit.

That time marked our family. We learned deep lessons of submissions, prayer, neediness, and comfort.

This post is the index page for a series of posts that I wrote about the stories of faith that we learned during the season of my father-in-law being in the ICU.

My hope is to share the comfort that God gave us during a difficult time in an effort to encourage others for the trials that their weary hearts may be going through just as it says in II Corinthians 1:4, "so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

There is comfort. There is hope. At times, there is even laughter. Every story is different. The endings are not all the same, yet there is hope for every weary heart. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding it or believing it or both. 

#2 Post: Remembering the Right Things


After the crisis of my father-in-law being in the hospital for four months, he finally went to his own house. We began to experience some relief as he continued to improve. But it was a struggle to keep remembering how God had helped us in every moment.

Instead I was struggling with only remembering the hard stuff. I think some of that is normal to process the difficulties of an event after the fact especially because in the moment of crisis one is caught up with responding to the needs at hand but our souls need time to process the gravity of a situation. 

In this post, I spend time recounting a few of the memorable times of when people showed up and touched our hearts. Ultimately, that was God being kind even in the midst of sorrow and suffering

#1 Post: How looking outside my kitchen window taught me something about faith

Simple observations of the tree outside of my kitchen window taught me a lesson of faith. I shared it here. Not only was this my most viewed post that I wrote last year, it also had the most comments. That hasn't always been the case. I spent more time on this post than most. The response encourages me to spending more time writing and crafting each post. May your faith continue to grow in 2014. 

 Honorable mention:19 reasons I love my husband

I have added a bonus mention because my top-viewed post of all time was written in 2012 on our 19th anniversary. Honorable mention may be misleading since it has 10 times the views of my number one post of 2013. Hope you enjoy it. 

Happy New Year!
 
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