Chronicling 40: Day 6 of 365

summer

In roughly two weeks my kids go back to school.  Where did this summer go?  I feel like we just started summer break.  It seemed like we had so much time, and now we are running out.

Parents of youngsters, I know that quite a few of you are counting down the days until your kids are back in school.  Summer squabbles are exhausting.  Proclamations of boredom may be grating your last nerve.  And all of the eating, you are tired of spending so much time prepping snacks or telling your kids to stay out of the pantry.

As a mother who knows what that is like, let me give you some hope… one day this too will pass.  This is not the first summer where I am asking for a summer buffer… a little more time.  More time to rest.  More time to spend with the kids.  More time to do things. More time to connect.

Before you know it, you have a kid starting college and another entering high school.  The baby?  She’s finishing up her last year of elementary school.   Your kids are turning into adults before your eyes.

When you feel the summer struggles creeping in… try to embrace the days you have left.  There are only so many summers before adulthood.

As I grow older, so do my kids, and perhaps hitting 40 makes me a bit more aware of how old they are… how little time I have left in these years… and a desire to make the most of it.

Chronicling 40: Day 5 of 365

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I’m 40.  I have a child who starts college this fall, another starting high school, my youngest is only a few months away from 11.  This means that in roughly 7 years time, all of my children will be adults.  We will be paying for college for the next 12 years in a row (sans any scholarship monies), and the reality it that there will be at least 1 wedding followed by a possible grandchild.

This blows my mind.  In so many ways I feel like I am still just a youngster myself, no where even close to the vicinity of being a grandparent.  These facts have hit my husband the hardest, I think, because of his work schedule.  So much time has been called away from his family, and making sure that we relish the time we have left in this space as a family is incredibly important to us.

We are balancing our younger kids activities, our eldest having a job and college, his schedule, my ministry that is growing (and in short order will be a full time job).  You can’t see my calendar, I don’t post my daily comings and goings online for the world to see.  I am busier than most people realize, but at times that seems to be overlooked because I am a “stay home mom”.

So yes, I am going to pick family night over girls night out.

If my husband has a weekday off, I am going to choose to spend it with him over lunch at a local cafe.

As our family dynamics are changing, we have opportunities before us that have been put on hold in order to raise young children.  Health issues have taken some of our energy and strength, and as we get older we need to focus on being our healthiest selves.

So yes, I may be more interested in hitting the gym than the ice cream shop.

If I need to rest or tend to my health needs, I am going to choose to do that versus fill up my schedule to the point of exhaustion.

Time is finite.

Energy is finite.

Add into the mix having an autoimmune illness, my energy capacity is less… which means that my time is even more valuable.  Even on my best days, I am still running on less than energy than others.

I once read an illustration that compared life with an illness as to starting your day with a certain number of spoons.  Everything takes a spoon from you.  Since you are starting with a limited number of spoons to begin with… every spoon is valuable.  Somethings in life take spoons from you, and you have no say over that. Getting sick, emergencies, doctors appointments, etc.  Then you subtract all those necessary daily life spoons (tending to the house, kids, work, etc), you are left with the number of spoons to be spent on the things you enjoy.

There are a lot of things I enjoy.  I do enjoy spending time with friends, reading, painting, going to the theatre, cooking a great meal, having fun with the kids, date nights with my husband, travel, learning, etc.  Lots to enjoy, but not as much time or energy to do it all.

Spoons are nontransferable, they don’t roll over to the next day.  I can’t reshuffle my spoons for days where I need more energy.  If I take a lazy day and I don’t use up all of those spoons, I don’t get to keep them.  Each day starts anew.

This means that I am going to be really strategic about how I spend my time.  It means I may need to say no more often than others will like to hear.  I may not have time for that phone call, or to help you with that favor.  A life of spontaneity may elude me.  I may choose to stay home and do nothing.  My ringer may be turned off.  I may choose to conserve my energy for my family.

Why?  Because for this season, I know where I want all of those spoons to be spent.  I have 7 years before my youngest is off to college.  In those 7 years, we are going to see transitions in our family as the older two begin navigating adulthood.

There will come a time, when they are living life… and all of those spoons spent on my kids needs are now mine to use freely.  There will be time for coffee dates, girls night out, a girls trip to an exotic location, and so much more.

What I need today, more than anything, is understanding that in this season my family is my priority.  My husband.  My daughters.  We want to be immersed in these years in a way we have never been before.  It’s funny how when they are infants you see so much time ahead of you to do all of the most wonderful things.  Then one day you are slapped in the face by reality, time has passed quickly.  Too quickly.

Trust me, one day you’ll find yourself in this space (it usually happens when your eldest child starts their senior year).  I’ll give you grace, because I’ve been there.  Until then, please give me grace. I’m navigating a new space in this parenthood journey where I want to hold onto my family a little tighter.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I need you to be ok with that.

Here is a truth, there are people in my life that I call dear friends.  They are heading right into the same space I am in.  We have known each other for eleven years, they were some of my first friends.  We were in MOPS together, go to church together, and our kids would have play dates together.  We would see each other every single week.

Now?  We see each other 2-3 times per year.  They get it.  I get it.  No one has feelings hurt, because we understand the unique needs of this time.  None of these ladies ever has to explain themselves to me, nor have I ever had to explain myself to them.

This is the beauty of friendship, real friendship, that can survive the most trying of times.  The friendships that evolve with time, bending not breaking.  The friendships that will stand the test of time, crazy schedules, changes in life, and all the things that come along with it.

Chronicling 40: Day 4 of 365

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One of the things I have come to realize recently is how disconnected I am from my own community.  What I mean by that is my specific neighborhood and surrounding areas.  When we moved to our current city, we knew absolutely no one.  We had been given a few church recommendations, that just didn’t work for our family.  Through a chance encounter at a park, I met a woman who invited me to a local MOPS group.

We had only been living in the area a matter of months, when I found out I was going to have another baby.  Since pregnancies are not easy on me, I was home a lot.  Thus, I didn’t really connect to anyone in my immediate community.  By the time I met this mom, I had a brand new baby and was desperate to get out of the house and make new friends.  A MOPS group being hosted in a church would mean that I could build up a group of moms who shared the same values as I did.  I envisioned our children being friends, our husbands too.

The hitch in this plan is that the church was actually in a neighboring county, albeit close in proximity.  I didn’t think this would be a big deal.  Additionally, most of the moms in this group were just starting their families.  I entered in with our last child.  This created a gap in the ages of our children, to an extent.  Please understand these were just hitches in the plan, not any negativity about the group at all.  These are wonderful women, many I am still in touch with and see occasionally.

The problem came in as our lives began to change.  It was convenient to drive to the next county when none of us had kids in school or to find a park in the middle to meet at for lunch.  Once the kids began attending school, and time became more strained… the travel time was a little less convenient.  The kids were not as close as they once were, as my kids were attending school in a different county.  Once I was graduated out of MOPS, often the only time they would see each other was during Sunday services.  There was just a very natural parting.  It happens.  That is ok.

In the last year, I started to notice things.  I noticed how close the kids were who were in the same schools, the families were that lived in the same county.  We didn’t have that same closeness.  We lived just far enough away to make it difficult to have that same connection.  I realized, however, that I had done a really poor job of connecting into my local community once I was not part of the MOPS group.  Perhaps I thought that the weekly connection in the church would be enough to sustain?  Or, perhaps having three kids so apart in age, it was just difficult connecting into anyone school community because our time is so divided.  (We have had three kids in three schools for quite some time now).

I began to feel almost burdened by our lack of connection to our community.  This grew each month as my eyes opened wider.  I never run into anyone I know at the grocery store.  I don’t have a neighborhood friend that I can go walking with.  Swinging by for coffee takes effort and planning.  Going to meet up with others means that I also have to factor in my travel time, which usually means I must arrive late or leave early.  This was an environment I created for myself, and didn’t even realize it.

I’m not a total hermit in my own neighborhood.  I know some people by name, I can tell you who has lived here the longest, we wave at each other, have mailbox conversations, etc.   Still I long for a different kind of relationship with the people on my street.

Case in point… found out that a family who lives on my street and I were going to the same church.  Only found this out in the last month.  How crazy is that?

Ultimately all of this has had an effect on us as a family, and we have been trying to decide exactly what to do about this.  It’s been weighing on us for some time.  How do we connect locally?  How do we give our kids a change to build real friendships?  What can we change?

The first answer to this question, was probably the hardest to make… and one we have been struggling with for some time.  This was the decision to leave our church of eleven years, really the only one we have attended since moving here.  Our 3 children were baptized in this church.  We have invested so much service into this church.  We have made so many great connections, and have grown in this church.  To leave is an incredibly difficult decision, and yet one shrouded in such peace.

Right decisions are not always easy decisions.  Peace doesn’t always mean easy decisions, either.  It is peace in spite the sadness that affirms this is the right move for our family.

My husband and I were both experiencing this call to move from our church, yet we had not shared it with one another.  It was a thought rolling through our minds, but I suppose we were both uncertain of how the other would receive the idea.  Finally one night my husband started sharing with me, and I realized that we were of one mind.  I was feeling the same way, having the same thoughts, feeling the same call.

We spent several days talking over these feelings, just between the two of us.  This is a big decision for a couple to make, but even more so when there are kids involved.  How would they feel?  Then one day, coming home from school, we passed by a local church.  One of my children asked if we could visit that church.  That began the conversation with our kids about possibly changing church, and a surprise for us at how open they were to the idea.

I remember a few years back speaking to my Pastor’s wife about moving and how it impacts children.  She told me then that God has always taken care of her kids when they have moved.  I believe that to be true, and the Lord had already softened our kids hearts.  He was preparing us for the time the call to move would come, and I fully believe that is why everything unfolded the way it did.  When we were all ready, when the timing was right, He prompted the conversations to begin.

I am very excited about what is to come, and how we will begin to plug into our immediate community.  I’ve been taking the time to learn about my community demographics, connecting with ministries serving our community, learning about our local churches, and even reading up on how others have done the same thing.

If you have done anything to intentionally connect to your local community… I’d love to hear about it!  Comment with your ideas, suggestions, and experiences.

I’ve been looking at the “Teal Table Project” as one idea too.  If you have done this, I’d love to hear about how you got the ball rolling and how it has worked out for you.

This is my neighborhood.  These are the people of my neighborhood. It’s time we are apart of this neighborhood.

My 40th: Day 3 of 365

hands

My friend Jenny took this picture just a few days ago, when she posted it to Facebook, she added the scripture.   I could say so much about what this picture means to me, and how it has been a reflection of the last year.

Two years ago, the Lord brought these three hands together in only such as way as He can.  I don’t live in the same city as these ladies, not even in the same county, or even the neighboring county.  I didn’t share any mutual friends with them (at the time).  But through a ministry connection, this friendship was born.

We have served alongside in ministry together, as Jenny and Aimee have both spoken at Women’s Ministry Council meetings.  We even jumped into the fray, and tacked a big topic… Diversity and Unity in the church.  We were cautious, nervous, maybe even a little afraid.  But the burden to push forward could not be pushed away.  We know that the Lord isn’t done with us in that capacity either, He is working things out and paving a way for a larger conversation.

Outside of the diversity our skin color and life experiences bring to the table, there is a commitment to God that intertwines our hearts together.  There is also something there which isn’t as easy to see… honesty.  You can’t have a conversation about race in the church, race in the community, etc without baring your souls to one another.  Being open about what you didn’t understand, having your heart broken over the experiences that your friends have lived through.  But, that isn’t the only honesty between us.

We have hard conversations.  We speak truth to each other.  We have conversations that are tense.  However, we choose to push through the awkwardness because our friendship and commitment to serving together is so much more important.  Not even two weeks before this picture was taken, Jenny and I had a really hard conversation.  Only speaking for myself, I walked away from that conversation a bit wounded and confused.  But, Jenny knew this.  Instead of burying my feelings, in the course of the conversation I told her “this hurts a little”.

In the days after, I needed to get my head straight.  Who is Jenny?  She is my friend, not my enemy.  Why was I feeling hurt?  Did I even need to be hurt?  The more I thought about these questions and more, I could only land on what I know of Jenny.   What I know of her is that she is a woman who pursues Christ, and she is responsible for the calling the Lord put on her life.  I know that she is wise, trustworthy, and kind.  I know that she is honest, direct, and she has good intentions.  She is a Kingdom server, loyal, and just like the rest of us she is not perfect.

The more I pondered about the Jenny I knew, my heart felt less of a sting.  I recognized that I really had no reason to feel hurt.

There are three things that I have taken away from this, that I am holding onto as I venture in the 40s.

  1.  It is far better to recognize the hurt in the moment, than to stuff it and let it stew.  It is not only healthier for me, but it is good for the other person to know as well.  Should there be actual fault, a person can not apologize for something they are unaware of.  If there is no fault, it allows the person to know that you are in a tender place and may need some space to heal.
  2. I need to surround myself with people whom I can be this honest with.  I knew I could be honest with Jenny.  Reflecting on my past, I can think of people who were in my inner circle and I couldn’t be that honest with.  This tells me that I either didn’t really know them in the first place, or that I knew and disregarded the fact that they were not people I could be honest with for the sake of having a friend.  Usually these are the people who will be direct and honest with you about your sins, but Lord help us all if anyone were to actually call them out.
  3. I need to evaluate who is in my circle, it may be time to prune… create boundaries. I want the friendships that I have, moving forward, to be built on good foundation.  It is quality over quantity.  Reciprocal relationships where we are each a blessing to each other, iron sharpening iron.  I want to walk away from phone calls, lunch dates, ministry work, etc feeling joy, peace, and even a belly hurt from laughter.  I can no longer afford to walk away and feel emotionally exhausted, beat up, pressed down, and overwhelmed.

There is a woman that I have been friends with for a very long time, and I thought it was a healthy friendship.  Now, I am not quite so sure.  I never set boundaries, nor stood up for myself in our friendship.  She has a very strong personality and frankly, I am intimidated by her at times.  I thought I could overlook that strong personality, especially since I have one myself.  However, in the last few days I have realized that while I enjoy most of our time together, it’s not always pleasant.

I’m going to take a heavy dose of blame here because I didn’t handle things well from the start.  I didn’t set boundaries, and the friendship became overwhelming.  Instead of sitting her down and being honest, I just imposed distance.  In the moments where she was overstepping her bounds, I didn’t speak up and tell her that she needed to back down.  Many years later, that resulted in a boundary-less friendship.

This came to a head recently, and when I recount our last interaction and how I felt when I left, I wondered if this friendship was really a blessing?  Not only was I asking if she was the the type of friend I needed… but also the reverse.  Am I the right friend for her?  Am I a blessing to her?  Is this a friendship that is salvageable?  Can we put in boundaries, or is it too late?

What to do with this revelation?

Before I do anything, I must take this to the throne.  As humans we are just fallible.  It is amazing what we can justify to keep in our lives, or to let go.  We allow the opinions of others to influence us.  We can have to soft of a heart, or a deep desire to be liked.  We can fear hurting even those who hurt us.

What does God’s Word say about what our relationships should look like?  What kind of character should we be looking for in those we pull into our inner circle?  Who should we avoid?

This doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves from the world at large, we can’t fulfill The Great Commission doing that.  I’m talking specifically about that inner circle, the closest friends, those we want to rely on for wise counsel and solid truth.  The ones we are going to give permission to speak into our lives.

I am going to trust the One who orders my steps.

My 40th: Day 2 of 365

spaday

As I sat in the spa yesterday, I lingered in my memories of days when taking care of my skin was part of my routine not a special occasion.  Understand that we didn’t always have the money for a spa day.  We still are not at a place where I could splurge on this type of a day on a regular basis.  But, somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life I dropped the ball.

Anyone with kids can understand that some days we are just grateful to take a shower, uninterrupted.  Even the idea of having an at home spa day seems out of reach when you have realized that you actually don’t recall when was the last time you shaved your legs.  I’ve noticed that in these seasons there are the women who have the time, but not the money.  Or, they have the money but not the time.  But none the less self care becomes  secondary (or tertiary) to everything else you “need to do”.

I made a decision yesterday that for my 40th year, I was going to schedule a mani-pedi session once a month.  A little something to bring me joy.  Today, I realized that was just not going to be enough.  I am going to carve out some at home spa time at least once a week.  This is going on my calendar.  This is going to be put into the meal planning.  One day, per week, where I am going to indulge myself in rest, I’m going to de-stress, I am going to find peace.

I may even invite some ladies to join me.

Having Hashimotos means that my skin is DRY.  I do mean DRY.  Not everyone gets this as a symptom, but I do.  The woman who did my pedicure yesterday could hardly believe that just a few weeks ago, I actually had a foot peel to remove dead skin or that I had used an exfoliant and pumice just the night before. My hands were beat up and rough, because of dry skin and brittle nails (my thyroid strikes again).

As I soaked in the mineraled waters, I was marveling at how soft my skin felt.  How much I wanted to bottle it up and bring it home.  If I could, I’d set up an above ground pool on the patio and make a mineral spring for myself.  I’m not sure these pools pumps are equipped to deal with this kind of water.  None the less, I wanted to bring it home and soak every day.

As my first decree to myself, meandering into forty, I’ve decided that this is going to be an area I am going to restore.  I’m going to take care of the skin that I am in.  I’m going to make the effort.

In a few weeks, once I have worked out the plan, I’ll post it here.  We can all have a great spa at home experience.

Facing Rejection

rejection

Rejection stings.  No one likes to be rejected.  In the age of social media the pain of rejection knows no bounds.  I was reading a post on a popular Christian magazine’s Facebook page this morning.  We would love to think that only someone who agrees with the magazine would be posting comments on their page, that was hardly the truth.  Most of the comments were negative, pot stirrers, people who were running in with a quick cut to the jugular and then disappearing into internet obscurity.

Before social media, there were definitely people who were like this.  Mean girls who would reject your offer of friendship and then talk about you behind your back.  Today, the negative comments are thrown right in your face. You know every word they say about you.

Before social media,  you could plan a party and excitement would roll in as you received the phone calls of those who were RSVPing that they would be in attendance.  Now, you not only see the responses of those who have chosen not to attend but also what they chose to do with their time instead.  You feel rejected when a person would rather spend time at the beach than with you on your birthday.  You feel rejected when you see photos of your group of friends all having lunch together, and you were not invited.

Social media has even given rejection no accountability at all.  You can unfriend someone without having to tell them why the friendship is over.  A person can kick you out of a facebook group, without ever having to tell you what you did wrong.  You can be banned.  BANNED.  A term once applied to people who were bad news and thus banned from a certain store, restaurant, or event.  Now, any regular person can be banned from a group… for no reason at all, for no reason ever given.

And, the worst part about it…. you know that this has happened.  When you attempt to view their social media account.  Unfriended.  When you can’t even find the social media account. Banned.  You are left with unanswered questions… what did I do wrong?  I thought was being helpful?  Did someone misunderstand me?  Why didn’t they like me? 

It is easy to wallow in those questions, wondering why you have been rejected.  It some instances it can hurt as badly as someone rejecting you to your face, in other instances it may hurt worse because you don’t even know why and there is nothing you can do about it.

I learned a long time ago to stop running after those who can’t make time for you, and to focus on those who will.  We can too easily get wrapped up in being accepted by a particular person, group of friends, or even social media account… that we can forget about those who have always been by our side, supporting us, who have pursued us.

A new friend reminded me one day when I was lamenting over a rejections… “Gena, those are just not your people.”

So true.  Maybe it is the wisdom of age catching up with me, but I realize that I don’t have enough time or energy for those who are “not my people”.  And, I am learning to better recognize who truly are my people.  Who supports me.  Who can I trust.  Who allows me to be me vs. changing me to what they want me to be?  Who can allow me to grieve how I need to grieve?  Who treats me like an adult, a person, and not a project?  Who trusts that I am capable person vs. talking down to me like a child?

When you begin to set boundaries, identify who you want to bring into your circle… rejection begins to sting less.  I think, in part, because you stop inviting the pests into your sanctuary in the first place… and you are quick to get rid of the ones that slip by.

Doors and Pathways

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A friend recently posted on her Facebook page that when God is making your path straight, He may cut off access to the other paths we are not meant to be taking.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot, since I read it this morning.

We’ve all heard that cliche quote “When God closes a door, He opens a window”.  This almost implies a certainty that the Lord isn’t going to shut the door to an opportunity without giving you an better one… and that it’s going to be obvious.  Closed door, open window.

When I think of that illustration, I don’t think of opportunity.  I think of escape.  We escape out of windows, we don’t just willy nilly walk through them.  They are not intended as an entrance and exit to a building.  No one would approve a building made up of entirely windows.  You can’t even get approval on a building or home with just one door and only windows.  There is a requirement for second door.  If you tell me to climb through the window, you are telling me that I am escaping… or in the terms of a teenager sneaking away.

You could argue that I am stuck on semantics, and that it implies the same meaning as saying “Where God closes one door, He’ll open another.”  Even there, there is an implication that God will not close one door without giving you an obvious exit.  I have another friend who insists that God will not call you from something until He is ready to call you to something else.

As I ponder these opinions, I realize my issue wasn’t with the details of the illustration itself.  Semantics or not.  Rather, my issue is that these cliche quotes and ideas of always having an open door neglects the times that the Lord calls us into a season of the wandering in the wilderness.  In the OT story of the Israelites wandering the desert, we know that their destination was not immediately revealed to them.  Yes, they knew that they were aiming for something; but they had no idea of when or where that would unfold.  They just kept walking.  Trusting.  And complaining a bit too.

I think that is why my friend’s words this morning were rooted into my thoughts, because this illustration seems so much more realistic.  That the Lord may close a door, may close off pathways we were not meant tread upon… because He is carving a path before us.  The other doorway may not be open yet, it may not even be visible yet. By faith, I keep walking. One step at a time.  The old door fading in the distance.

Perhaps there are times where God closes the door, and puts us on a journey that separates us from the old because He is preparing us for the new.  There may be times in our lives that we need to be severed, where our roots are pruned.  A new home is waiting for us, but in this moment we must wait.

I purchased some cuttings from a beautiful tree to plant at my home.  When they arrived, there was not a root to be seen.  You see, when you sell cuttings off of this tree… first you cut or break off the parts that you intend to grow into new trees.  Then you let them sit, not in any soil… nor are they watered.  You let them dry for a period of time, before you replant or ship them.  My instructions were then to take these dried up sticks and put them in small pots of regular dirt.  No fertilizer, no water, no direct sun.  I was to basically ignore them until I began to see leaves opening up from the top.  Only then could I put them into a larger pot and begin to care for them.

I was not neglecting these plants, but actually giving them the space to they needed to form new roots.  NEW ROOTS.

I believe there are times where the Lord will pull you from one thing without giving you a new place to go… at least not right away.  Why?  Because, He is giving you new roots… roots that are formed IN HIM only.  Not the place you serve, the ministry you lead, etc.  Instead, you are pulled out of everything that is familiar and put into His hands.  He is going to ready you in this time for whatever it is He has in store for your future.

Some roots need to be severed.

Sometimes we need new roots.

Sometimes there are no open doors.

We know that we can’t go back from where we came, but until the Lord is ready to reveal the path He is foraging… we may need to spend sometime in the waiting room.  Instead of running around trying to find out which door is unlocked, which window to escape from… we need to sit and wait.  Then in His timing, a door will open, and you will hear a voice that says “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isa 30:21)