Blessed with Help

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I’m not great at asking for help. It makes me feel like a burden. I know people are busy–they don’t need my neediness on top of that. But that’s not really a great/healthy perspective to have. Cause we’re all going to need help–eventually. Some more often than others.

In the last few weeks or so I’ve been working up a major eczema flare up on my hands. So much so, that for the last several days, I haven’t been able to use them for much of anything other than very light housekeeping and very minimal food prep. I seem to have turned the corner on it (hopefully) and I’ll share my strategies for recovery and management in another post.

But in the meantime, things needed done. The weeds had waged a major takeover in the garden. The house needed cleaning. Dishes needed done. And half my time has been spent soaking my hands in something or trying to catch up on the sleep I wasn’t getting from the unbearable itch all night long.

And then the helping began. I did ask my older kids to help wash up anything that couldn’t go into the dishwasher. For once they didn’t complain. Everyone pitched in to prep their own meals over the weekend, when my situation was the worst. My mom came over and started cleaning things, and then decorating things in a flurry–just cause she knew it was bugging me and I had been in the middle of a project to spruce things up that I was forced to abandon. My dad popped his head in first thing in the morning to ask me if I needed help with anything.

Monday, I came home from running my son somewhere, and my oldest daughter had emptied the dishwasher and folded the towels–without my asking–because she felt so badly about my hands. I nearly cried.

And most of this wonderful help came without my asking. I’m incredibly grateful for a family that is so giving and thoughtful.

It can be hard for a mom when she can’t be the mom she needs to be. Self pity takes over. I may have engaged in some serious whining. But I’m learning lessons about graciously receiving the help that’s offered to me. Learning that I don’t have to be at top performance all the time. Or that it’s okay if my youngest only knows how to fix herself ONE thing to eat and has it several days in a row.

My kids learn to serve. I learn to receive. We’re reminded to poke our heads up from our projects or plans and team up for one another.

Is it hard for you to receive or ask for help?

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Summer Conspiracy

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Haven’t been here much. Summer (and a broken camera) have conspired against me. Well, mostly summer. I just can’t seem to talk myself into sitting at this computer. I figure that’s bound to get worse when the beans are ready to can.  And I think I’m okay with that, I really am. As my husband would say, there’s so much going on in real life (irl).

Good stuff. And I find myself committing over and over–day by day–to be present in it. To slow down and take it in fully, not half halfheartedly from the corner of my eye while I type or check Facebook.

Cause summer is full…

  • lazy afternoons playing lifeguard while my kids swim
  • tending the garden and herb beds
  • picking flowers for inside
  • watching the family of ducks that have taken residence here
  • home improvement projects indoors and out
  • lots of meals outside
  • long evening walks
  • kids’ sleepovers and playdates

Of course there’s lots more. (Plus all the laundry and dirt that all that fun makes.)

So I guess this is my “excuse” post. But really, I don’t need an excuse. None of us do. Because it’s good to remember to keep the right balance. To not exchange “good” for what’s really best for our time. I don’t want this expensive box of plastic and circuits to be my master.

Cause I’m gonna enjoy my summer!

What summer fun is going on in your life?


Inspired to Simplify

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This past weekend, my family spent 3 days camping in the mountains of WV. Canaan Valley, Blackwater Falls, Dolly Sods. I have a few stories to share later on, but there is something about a few days spent unplugged, in nature, that makes me think a bit. It’s like all the cobwebs and noise and stress that clutter my mind all melt off. And I can see a little more clearly.

For us, camping is in itself an exercise of freedom and simplicity. We tent camp. We cook over the fire or a little propane stove. We pack 5 plates, 5 metal cups, 1 pan and one pot. Dishes are washed up quickly in a tub of water warmed over the stove while we eat, ready to use for the next meal. Coffee (the best coffee I’ve had in a while) is brewed in a French Press–no coffee pot beeping at us. And we brew tea in the sun while we hike.

There are few clothes and fewer shoes. A couple of games and books during down time. We talk. We play boccie ball. We go for walks.

I find myself resisting the return to reality.

Not that my reality is in any way bad. But it is hurried sometimes. It is full of stuff. Stuff I have to organize and clean and maintain. And clean some more. Stuff that costs money to buy and eventually replace. We may not notice it, but all our stuff easily becomes a thief that robs our time and energy and resources.

I think about that little campsite and the few things we brought. I didn’t miss anything. And then I think about this spacious house and garage that’s full of STUFF. How half the time, I can find the stuff I’m looking for. And I know something’s gotta give–or better still, GO.

Oh, the all-or-nothing side of me would like to mercilessly tear through the house and eliminate great piles of it. But I’ve got kids. And the kids come with lots of things, it seems. They’re busy with it all the time. And I’m not going to be the great purging ogre. I have encouraged them, little by little to go through their things and see what they love, what they need and what can go. It’s a process.

But then there’s me. I took a look at my closet. Too many items that barely (if ever) see the light of day. So a couple of large bags are headed for donation. I’ve got 3 or 4 skillets that do basically the same thing. Saving the beloved cast iron, sending the rest out the door. And I think it’s time to let go of some jewelry, some dishes, some knickknacks and decorations (not that I have too many of those to begin with).

And on the flip side, the getting side of things, it’s time to begin asking, “Does this add to our lives? Is it a need? Or is it just a trifle that eats up our money and then takes up space?” We already do some serious thinking about the bigger purchases, but it seems that those little pieces of clutter and junk converge on the house in the most stealthy way. And I’m ready to put a stop to it.

I want to get creative when we have a need instead of spending and consuming. I want to enjoy open spaces and simple surroundings. I’m ready to live with significantly less so I can live a little more. 

So share with me…

What do you do to simplify your life?


Putting Myself on a Mandatory Vacation

A mandatory vacation you ask? Yes. You see, I’ve let myself get a little overloaded lately. I’ve worked and worked and for a while I quite loved it. (I’m a little messed up that way.) But just like any other mere mortal, my tank started to run low. Very, very low. I was losing the joy in my daily duties. I was tired. And some might say I was just a tad grumpy. Just a tad. 

This week, I’m off at the church. We have a weekend in the mountains camping trip planned. Getting ready for camping (especially tent camping) can be quite an ordeal for a family of 5. I was actually starting to dread that as well. But then I decided–the buzz words for this week will be easy, simple and relaxed.

Easy camping menu to plan for. Slower pace. More sitting on the porch. More reading on my own and with my youngest. Walks down the country road. A little more peace.

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Where I plan on spending a little more time this week.

I think, for moms, it can be quite difficult to take a time off or give ourselves some rest. Because even if we have a break from work outside the house, our families still need food and laundry. Kids still need guidance and discipline. Bills still need paid. The daily life at your house (or even your vacation spot) never stops and some of us feel like we still need to keep spinning a hundred plates in the air at all times.

If it’s not always physically demanding, it sure is mentally.

That’s the reason for the mandatory vacation. I don’t get to escape from the daily stuff. (And that’s okay.) But I was carrying far too much of a burden in my little mind. The activities building up, the to do lists I was trying to cross off–they led to a stressed mind. The stressed mind led to anxiety. The anxiety saps energy. And then the grumpies move in.

So it’s time for a little reset. Time to remind myself that I don’t have to make it all happen. I don’t have to get it perfectly done. I never was anyway. And I needed the reminder to give the burdens to God and just give my mind some rest.

And if I can end those few days with a trip to one of my most favorite places, surrounded by the people I love, then even better. 

So if you want to take your cues from me, I hereby give you permission to give yourself some sort of a little vacation this week as well. May we all find a little rest and joy on the way.

 

Other rest related posts:


Learning to Be Still

As early as I can remember, I’ve sung. Didn’t really matter what it was. And then, as a young believer, I sang and sang in our church. I bought music and sang at home. I went to college to study voice and sang some more.

There have been seasons that I didn’t sing much for others, but I still sang. And for the last 7 years, I’ve been singing week after week as a co-leader for our worship team.

It’s just kinda part of who I am.

Do you have anything like that in your life? Something that has become part of your identity? Maybe you’ve always been an athlete. Maybe you’ve always taken care of people and by profession you’re a nurse or doctor. Or you’ve always been able to fix just about anything. You’ve always been the way you are. You figured that was just how God made you. It would always be that way.

Well, at the risk of begin more dramatic than usual, I tell you this story.

Last week I lost my voice. I mean GONE. Had to write on a white board. (Thank goodness my kids can read.) I know people get laryngitis all the time. But not me. Never like this. And the timing of it was just nuts. I was scheduled to sing a huge song for a worship/dance concert that my daughters were participating in. Tuesday I sang at the rehearsal. Thursday I couldn’t talk.

And Easter was coming.

All sorts of people were praying for me. Since I’d never been out of a voice for long before, I figured a couple of days would pass, I’d drink a ton of tea with honey and I’d be on the mend in time for all my commitments.

But a few days passed (I even went to the doc for some serious meds) and it became evident that God’s answer was “no.” I had to give up the solo (to another VERY capable worship leader in the area). I called on one of my team’s vocalists to lead our church’s Palm Sunday service.

I was on the bench.

It’s funny how God always uses the bench to teach us something. Or several somethings. Like my voice is not mine. It’s His. That sometimes I just need to stop and be still and listen. That I can still worship in my own personal silence.

That last rehearsal, when I wasn’t even allowed to try to whisper, they danced to Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Be Still.” I was reminded in that song, in a powerful way, that I didn’t need to sing that week. I needed to surrender. Submit. Be willing to sit on the sidelines and be ministered to by others.

I needed to just stand in awe. Consider who He is. What He has done. To remember He is faithful. To rest.

You may say, what’s the big deal? You were just sick for a little while. Everyone takes a sick day. And you’re right. But in this case, I think God was beginning something in me. Cause that theme of submission and internal rest has been relentlessly pursuing me every day since then.

No matter how tightly I want to cling to something, no matter how much I hinge my identity or worth or security on it, it’s not really mine in the first place. That’s a little scary. But it’s also freeing. Because then I’m free to put all my security, identity and trust in the right place. In my God.

 

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

 


Maybe, you can relate to where I’m coming from. Maybe you need to admit that the thing you think defines you, really doesn’t. It’s time to remember that it is God who made us. Everything we are good at, everything we do is from Him. Everything we are is found in Him.

It’s time to surrender. To be still.


Giving Credit Where It’s Due

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I gotta tell you a little about life around here the last couple weeks. Earlier, I wrote a post about all the ways that God has provided for us. Big and small. Ordinary and totally extraordinary.

They say sometimes to be careful when you put something out there. Because you just might have to prove what you believe. Like praying for patience and then having it seriously tested. I’m not sure I buy into that all the time, but it definitely happened this time.

The very same day I put up that post things started falling apart for my husband at work. In twelve years with the small family business, he had never had something like this happen to him. It all seemed totally out of his control, and yet his integrity was questioned, reputation at stake, money lost. It was the icing on the cake of a winter where things had been barely treading water anyway.

Needless to say we had quite a few anxious days.

And immediately my mind went back to that post. What on earth was going on? Not that writing about God’s provision means He’s obligated to reward us or something. I know that’s not how it goes. But it just came too close together. Reason told me it was a stretching of our faith. Growth as a believer rarely comes without a little (or a lot) of adversity. When things are perfect we just don’t feel the need to rely on our God as much. We are quick to forget where our strength comes from.

But that’s not the end of the story. A few days into the situation, my husband was working his tail off, trying to fix the situation the best he could, and work for another customer as well. And as Providence would have it, this customer would be the conduit for heaps of blessings–emotional, spiritual and physical.

While the guys were being berated and threatened on one side, the others were constantly praising their work. They kept pouring out appreciation and encouragement that whole week long. They helped us keep our perspective and reassure that not everyone out there was out to get us.

Then, in another out of the box way, God provided. Items we needed just fell into our laps. And then to cap it all off, we got an all wheel drive car for my husband and sold our van in the same day…when it wasn’t even a blip on the radar when the week started.

Unexpected provision. All clearly orchestrated by God.

And after all that I stumbled through a prayer of dumbfounded thanks. I was reminded that we too easily forget that He does not let us go. We resort to whining and complaining and even still He pours out blessings we do not deserve.

The desert season for the business is not over. Things are still rocky and somewhat discouraging here and there. All we can do is depend on new mercies every morning. Wait for the bread of that day and then get up the next and do it again.

But isn’t that what He wants from us anyway? Trusted dependence? Faithful reliance? Daily hope? Then, when it is all out of our control anyway, we notice so keenly all the moments, big and small, where He’s carried us and held us together.

And then with full hearts we give thanks and glory.

May the God of all HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.     –Romans 15:13


My Mothering Is a Comedy of Errors

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Yesterday, as we were driving out of our way to drop of library books (cause I had forgotten…again) I asked my daughter, “When you grow up, are you going to remember me as the mom who was constantly forgetting things…and couldn’t manage to order a leotard that fit?”

(She has a dance concert in about 2 1/2 weeks and at this moment I have ordered/returned TWO different leotards, one too big, one too small. And three different pairs of ballet shoes, just to get ONE that fit.)

Now, I could try to blame such moments on the monster cold I was recovering from. Except I ordered the first one before that hit…and let’s face it, this is not an isolated thing. Nope. If I’m brutally honest, I have to concede that I’m not nearly as together as others might think.

I really don’t care about how others perceive all that. But lately, my list of foibles and blunders keeps growing. And it’s starting to get a little discouraging, ya know?

I remember way-back-when. When my brain seemed to work better. Sometimes I have my husband tell the kids that I did indeed used to be smart. He’ll quote my GPA in college. (Not that they have much of a clue what that is, being homeschooled and all.) But that was before even one bundle of joy had arrived to evidently drain out a good measure of mental abilities and replace them with mommy brain–which I don’t think we ever fully recover from. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

I think I’ve learned to just laugh at myself.

Because it seems that the modern mom has her plate full. Whether you work outside the house or 24/7 behind those four walls. Whether you have one kid or ten. There’s just so much to keep straight. Education, doctor visits, bills, school papers and events, extra curricular classes, holidays, birthdays…and then you best be serving the highest quality organic gourmet meals in a sparkling clean kitchen…right?

Then there’s that mom who really does seem to have it altogether and can’t understand why I keep forgetting that thing I was supposed to bring her…again. Cause her brain is not swiss cheese like mine.

Let’s chalk it up to a dose of humility. (And a kick in the pants to get myself a little more organized.) A reminder to keep my to do lists a little more simple. To slow down and really think about my day.

There are those seasons during the year that are just crazier. Spring is like that for me. I love it after a long winter’s hibernation. But it’s challenging.

So for all the mom’s out there that are starting to feel like a crazy mess, for all of us who lose papers or forget deadlines or put the mail in the refrigerator…I hear ya. It’s time to not take ourselves quite so seriously, pray for grace, enlist the kids’ help, and type a billion reminders in our phones.

We may never hack it as the “perfect mom,” but I wasn’t going for that anyway. I’ll be happy with somewhat-together-mom that loves her family like crazy.