I was laying in bed yesterday morning, in between alarm-going-off and actually-getting-out-of-bed. Pondering all the things that were to come that day, I remembered that my husband was leaving for a three day trip in a few hours. Immediately I flashed back to all the other trips he’s taken over the past few months (our work usually keeps us pretty local but he’s had some commitments over the fall and winter that took him all over the place), what had happened during those times apart, and a slow wave of anxiety started to rise inside my chest. We had been sick. The power had gone out. The kids missed their dad. Memory after memory crashed through me as I began to dread the upcoming 72 hours while he was gone and we were here. The suddenly, like a splash of cold water, this thought appeared in my mind.
Write a new story.
Before my day had even begun, I was allowing the past to determine how the future would unfold. Thanks to a decent understanding of my DISC profile, I know that a high S(that’s me!) tends to evaluate future events in the light of what’s gone before, so I had a pretty good idea where this ruminating was coming from. Nonetheless, this simple thought rang out: Could I write a new story for myself, my family, my life over the next few days? Did I need to let what had happen influence what could happen?
Write a new story.
It’s the morning of Day 2 and the story is halfway over. I’ve struggled with the blank pages and new pencils, but what we’ve written so far isn’t half that bad. After all, it’s ours and it’s new and there’s still more to write.
Our little ones have been fighting a cough and cold this week. Yesterday Madison woke up super early crying about ear pain. She didn’t relent for about three hours, yelling, “It HURTS!” while adamantly refusing anything I tried to do to help her. Finally, after essential oils, heat compresses, hydrogen peroxide, and Tylenol, she settled down and dozed for about 10 minutes on the couch. Miraculously, she woke up happy and pain-free. Hallelujah! Even more miraculously, she actually fell asleep during our afternoon quiet time (which hasn’t happened in close to two years) and slept for almost an hour and a half, snuggled next to me.
It’s hard for me to see my kids sick. Not only because they are in pain or miserable, but because I’ve come to believe the lie that their physical wellness is directly connected to how well I care for them. If they are sick then I did something wrong. We take a slightly alternative approach to wellness and health care in our family (not a lot of doctor visits or prescriptions…using a lot of oils and other natural approaches) and I harbor a hidden fear of being ‘found out’ that blazes to the surface whenever my kids don’t feel well. That someone will point a finger and accuse me and I’ll be helpless and defenseless. As if I can control how their body responds to every germ or virus that may pass their way? I know where the root of that fear comes from(I haven’t written much about my family’s story lately, but there were strong themes of accusation and helplessness woven all throughout) and as I stood in the shower yesterday I decided to confront it head on.
My kids are not sick because I didn’t something wrong.
They are being cared for because I love them.
I’m not in control of their physical wellness, but I can choose how I respond to them when they are feeling icky. My response to their pain reveals the depth of my love for them.
I hear them hacking and coughing as they wake up this morning. It’ll be another day of teas, oils, and restful play. I set my intention to care for them.
We looked at our summer calendar at the beginning of 2016 and cringed. Packed to the brim, it seemed like those months would fly by in a blur. What did we decide to do in the midst of those crazy, busy, three months? Take a trip to Washington to see family and friends, of course! And not just any trip, but a three-week road trip that started and finished with 25-hour drives to our destination. Did we already mention ‘crazy’? Yup.
Seemingly endless days with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins stretched out into the late sunset, pushing bedtime further and further back each night. The county fair. S’mores. Bounce houses and water slides. Baseball games. BBQs. Swimming. Blackberry picking. Sleepovers. Food, food, and more food. We soaked in these quintessential, americana-laden moments under the soft summer sun.
It was the best three weeks we’ve spent in Washington in a long time. It was also the most physically painful three weeks I’ve had in recent memory. Starting with a wicked sore throat that hit me around midnight on our inaugural night of driving, to the massive cold sores that erupted around my mouth, not to mention the strange prickly, red rash I was recovering from that attached my neck the week before, it all culminated in waking up one morning with a stabbing, stiff pain in the left side of my neck and shoulder. No stranger to knots in my back, I went about my normal routine of massage and stretching, spending good portions of that day working out the kinks (literally). After a pre-bed session with a tennis ball and a wall (it works -try it!), I climbed into bed hoping for a great night’s sleep and a sore-but-loose back the next morning. What I got instead was an immediate lock-up of the muscles on that side of my neck and shoulder, and throbbing pain radiating from my neck, down the side of my scapula and out towards my elbow. Sleep? What sleep? More like measured breathing and deep sighs reminiscent of childbirth.
I tried icing it. I tried stretching it. I tried heat, rest, laying down, standing up. I tried it all. After about two days I couldn’t take it any more and searched out a massage therapist…and then a chiropractor…and then another visit to the chiropractor. The pain would not go away.
Sleep was nearly impossible. I woke up more than I slept. One night I lay in bed, trying to move as little as possible, breathing deeply and trying to manage the pain. I turned my thoughts heavenward and asked, “Okay God. I give up. What can you teach me through this?” Almost immediately, an image flashed in my mind. It looked something like this:
I turned my thoughts back into a prayer and asked, “What does that mean?” As soon as the sentence finished forming in my mind, a story began to unfold.
I am in a big room. Tall ceilings, lots of space. A bank of light switches in one corner. There are lights everywhere but only a few are turned on. This room represents God’s character. The absolute fullness of who He is. Every aspect of His being. The lights that are turned on symbolize my knowledge of who God is. God is loving. God is merciful. God is forgiving. Those familiar characteristics that I easily identify and understand. But what about the lights that were turned off? And the bank of light switches? Here is where the pin dropped for me.
Pain and suffering can illuminate an aspect of God’s character that I might have never noticed before.
Does my situation change who God is? Of course not. It does provide an opportunity for me to flip a switch, thus pouring light where shadows had previously existed. His character is made known to me in new ways. He becomes my healer, my redeemer, my strong tower, my warrior, my jealous lover. He has always been and always will be, but I never needed to know until now.
In my mind’s eye I watched as the light switches were turned on one by one and the room began to glow brighter than ever before. The questions poured through my mind. How many switches do I ignore, content to know God in the measurable, limited ways I’ve always known Him? How often do I run from challenges because I value my comfort more than the expansive illumination of an infinite God? Will the pain ever be so great that I slam the lights off and leave the room?
Eventually, my shoulder and neck healed. It took weeks of cautious movements, slowly building strength, for everything to begin to feel normal again. While I am so thankful to move without pain, I often think back on those three weeks. Deep gratitude. Deep revelation. The lights are on.
I’m revisiting parts of this post today to see how my 2016 unfolded and if it kept true to any of the insights I had when the year began. Sidenote: I love this gal’s blog and mission, which is where I found this Vision Guide to help start my year off right. Her workouts are accessible, effective, and uplifting (I’ve completed all of her challenges at least twice). Take a moment to check out her stuff – it’s great!
Based on what worked or didn’t work in 2015, what lesson did I learn?
I am at my best when I: read, sleep, have a rhythm to my days, am learning something new, carve out space and time to be alone, nourish my body with delicious & nutrient-dense foods, and ask for help before the crisis hits.
This insight still rings so true with me twelve months later. These rhythms of wellness are so critical for me to be able to truly engage and thrive in my own life.
One step I’ll take to improve my health in 2016 is:
Buy a greens powder mix to add to smoothies, like this one.
I didn’t buy a greens powder mix, but I did win a huge basket of products from this company when I attended a Birth Without Fear meetup earlier this year. I’ve loved everything we’ve used so far and am bummed that the two protein mixes have run out. 😦 Our wonderful neighbors did give us some greens mix they had a few weeks ago when our whole family was under the weather which was so generous of them. That mix has been added to some of our smoothies and we all like it.
One step I’ll take to improve my fitness in 2016 is:
Participate in the January Fitness Challenge.
Not only did I participate and complete the Challenge, I was asked to lead it in 2017! Wow! Apart from that honor, the Challenge helped me shed a clothing size and kickstart some healthier eating and self-care habits that have remained constant throughout the year.
One place I’d like to visit:
The San Diego Library’s downtown branch.
Done! For my birthday weekend we visited and it was swoon-worthy, if slightly overwhelming.. Sigh.
One habit I’d like to break:
Listening to the lie that says, ‘You are all alone and no one is helping you.’
This lie is not as strong or believable as it was at the beginning of the year. I actually was alone for some longer stretches as Scott traveled extensively, especially in the final three months of the year. I’ve found that when I have to face a reality of my “worst fears” (in this case, actually being alone without any help) that there is a degree of breakthrough into truth in my mind and heart. I also have tried to ask for help before or in the midst of a struggle, instead of slogging my way through it and then harboring resentment against the person who I thought should have aided me. I’ve grown in this area but still have room for more victory.
Done! Over 100 books this year!!! I also tracked what I started and didn’t finish, as well as how far I got into those books (like a fraction: 117/200 pages) in case I want to revisit them in the future I can pick up where I left off.
One relationship I’d like to work on:
I love XXXX. We are as opposite as can be when it comes to so many things, and yet I see faint glimmers of similarity as well. There were flashes of progress throughout the year, but there is definitely space for growth.
My top three values in 2016 will be:
Obey God’s voice.
Nourish myself & my family.
These values were definitely present throughout my life this year.
Three ways I can make more time for these values:
When I have a sense about someone or thing, mention it to Scott or someone else I trust so I am accountable to it.
Make time and space for people to be in our lives – at meals, at our home.
Provide a majority of nourishing foods with a minority of indulgent treats.
I acted more quickly on this step but I still hesitate because I don’t want to be presumptuous or judge-y. I think I need to ‘practice’ listening to the discernment the Holy Spirit has given me and if I fail, at least I can do it in a safe place with a person I trust first before I act on what I sense.
We had married couples over a lot to listen to their stories, ask questions, and encourage each other. We didn’t host a lot of meals at our house but almost every night had other people at our table for dinner on campus. There is a family that moved into our neighborhood recently that I want to get to know, so it’s a good reminder to see this value listed.
I did really well this year with this value. For the better part of the year I did not eat any added, refined sugar which is huge for me. I slept better, felt better, and my emotions didn’t carry me away as much as they have in the past. There are still some tweaks I would like to make regarding our day-to-day nutrition, but we are doing very well with what we have.
At the end of 2016 I will feel…
Well, it’s the end of the year and I do feel at peace and accomplished. Imagine that?
I can barely remember the last time I stayed up until the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I doubt I’ll make it past 9:30 PM tonight. After all, in the grand scheme of things it’s just another day, right? Yet it’s healthy to pause, reflect, and recognize all that happened in 2016 and I’m glad that the year’s end prompts me to do just that. While 2016 was challenging in many way, it also was one of my better years. Here’s to a year that’s coming to it’s close and a year that’s just starting to unfold.
It hit 81F yesterday. At the end of December. Yup. We love where we live.
As the day shifted into the afternoon, the winds changed and this expansive bank of clouds rolled in and covered horizon to horizon. The temperature dropped. The sunshine faded. But the clouds…the clouds were awe-inspiring. This photo only shows a sliver of what the heavens were displaying.
For a PacNW girl at heart, it shouldn’t phase me. Living in a sprawling city of 3+million people, linked by shaky infrastructure, unfinished roads, and nonexistent drainage systems, I start to panic.
Okay. Maybe panic is a little too strong of a word, but any sort of precipitation can make things go crazy. Our house leaks. Streets flood. Stores close. Potholes become small lakes (that you have no idea how deep they are and just hope your car can make it out of them). The power goes out. Life is disrupted.
We spent a few hours yesterday morning without power, starting with screaming kids around 6:30 AM because the white noise shut off in their room, waking them up to pitch black darkness because the night light was off, causing them to commence said screaming. We scrambled to find flashlights and iPods with white noise apps, and they settled down to rest a little longer before breakfast. As I hurried to and fro in the dim light of the morning, I found myself grumbling about the rain and how inconvenient it is for our life. Why can’t it just stay sunny? We live in one of the most temperate climates on earth, after all. Who needs rain when there’s an ocean of water right next door? (my complaining is obviously very unscientific. ha!)
Finally, the kids were quiet. I settled back on my workout mat to go through the final motions of my morning routine. My mind began to calm and through the mental chatter, this thought suddenly rang loud and clear:
“What causes the most disruption in your life can often bring the greatest growth.”
It may not rain a lot where we live. Technically, we are less than an inch per year away of living in the actual desert (then things you learn in homeschool…). When the rain does come, everything comes to life. After a storm passes, suddenly tiny green sprouts cover what used to be dry, dusty, empty plots of land. The hills in the distance look like they’ve been sprinkled with green confetti. Flowers bloom. Plants stand taller. Everything seems cleaner, brighter, and fresher. All because of a little bit of inconvenient, disrupting rain.
That thought stayed in my head all day as we drove throughout the city and experienced first hand the challenges this wet stuff hands out when it decides to dump all over us. I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps my life, with it’s ups and downs and twists and turns, could also be a place of significant growth because of (not in spite of) that very same principle. Do I complain when my day is derailed and plans change? Or do I shift my perspective enough to see the growth that is coming after the storm?
Besides, rain means puddles and puddles mean jumping and any day can be made better by a good stomp through the mud.