Juggling Life in my 40s

This year I have faced alot of changes from my personal life to a new aspect in my professional life.  As many people who know me well they know that our children have been a huge factor in my daily schedule and career goals.  I chose to stay home and be with our children during the first 15 years of our marriage.  It was a mutual decision and one that I don’t regret, if anything I’m thankful for that time and treasure those memories dearly.

However, 11 years ago I felt it was time to start working on my professional goals, so I started college at the ripe old age of 30 and earned my bachelors in a 3 year time span.  From there God opened the doors to jobs that allowed me to work around our kids’ school schedules (and with 4 different school schedules that was an amazing feat indeed!) I have slowly but steadily worked my way up the graphic design “ladder” and learned my trade.  I have also learned much about the world of business and how to balance motherhood, marriage and career (even at 30 hours a week this was quite the juggling act).

This year our youngest and oldest graduated into the life phase of being their own drivers and having jobs.  So my mom role as taxi driver came to an end.  Now for the past 5 years I have been slowly, quietly plying my graphic designer trade in the world of free-lance.  I have had a loose dream of gaining enough clients to work full-time as a free lance designer, so I could work from home and set my own schedule.  This past 6 months I have seen this “dream” come into fruition, especially with my new level of career freedom.  The word has gotten around about my design skills and more and more people are approaching me for work.  This has been a blessing and I’m thankful for it.

However, I’ve come to realize that I want to work full time (40 hours) for my day job.  I really like my co-workers and I love the diversity of my job.  I not only get to design daily but I also get to do event planning and coordinating which is my second career love.  Between the idea of working full time and with my current other activities of going to the gym at least twice a week with my good friend, Maria; weekly bible study; weekly volunteer work at the church; plus keeping up with my active family I’m just not sure if I can keep the free-lance work going.  I love it and love my clients, but just how far can I stretch myself?  Part of me thinks I can keep up, but this past 2 weeks I’m starting to doubt myself.

The past 2 weeks I’ve suffered from sinus infections, hitting a deer and having to deal with the after effects, having one of my kid’s get into his first car accident and deal with those consequences, plus juggling my regular activities and an increase in free lance work.  Not to mention some emotional outbursts in the family circle.  It’s been a bit exhausting and stressful and I’m not even working full time yet!  So what do I do?  Logically, I know I need to drop the free lance work to keep my sanity, but its hard to drop something you’ve spent 5 years building up.

God has answered my prayers and blessed the goals He has set before me.  So with this in mind I don’t feel yet led to drop my clients.  I’m not sure what the future will hold for me career-wise.  There are some potential doors that may be opening yet.  I just hope when the hard push of juggling comes I have the strength and wisdom of when to say no and when to say yes.

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The Unknown

It still amazes me how God can talk to us and get our attention even when our emotions are all over the place and we can’t seem to focus.  I am especially blessed with some wonderful people who recently were His voice to me, even though they probably didn’t know it.

On Monday I went in for my first Mammogram.  I was nervous as can be expected from all the stories I’ve read and heard, but I was willing to face it and get it over with.  It was definitely not a pleasant experience and it did hurt, especially one side more than the other.  (I know TMI, but you chose to read this.)  Anyways, I left without feeling worried or concerned and went along my day.

Within 24 hours I received a call.  A call I didn’t expect and that was so vague that it was fear inducing. I lost control and cried (well, as much as I’ll allow myself in public).  I was told that they wanted me to come in and re-scan and have a chat with me about my results.  For those that know me I have a very vivid imagination that sometimes gets the better of me.  So of course it did.  I imagined the worse.  I admit at first it took me about 30 minutes to get control over myself to finally tell my friend (who works just across from me).  I had texted Tom, my parents, my prayer group, and of course my bff up north.  But as usual with texts the responses are slow and not always immediate. Anyways, she hugged me and comforted me that it wasn’t probably as bad as I imagined.  I went promptly to the restroom to wipe my face off after another hug.  When I came back she was sharing my plight with another co-worker.  This co-worker comforted me too but she said something that jarred me.  She said I know how strong you are in your spiritual beliefs.  You can take comfort and assurance in that more than anything.  I was shocked that she (a friend who doesn’t profess to follow Christ, brought God up to me).  Her saying that actually warmed my heart and helped me to refocus my mind again.  I can never thank her enough for reminding me of my true source of comfort.

Later that day my messenger and text app flooded in with comforting words, prayers and facts from those who work in the medical field.  This continually flow of encouragement gave me a sense of peace that I can’t describe.  The final word of encouragementI had was from my study guide I’ve been working on.  It went over the beginning and the end of Job’s story and how in the end God was trully the one in control and that Satan was still only just God’s creation.  That God has the final say.

So even though my appointment isn’t until tomorrow and I only have a letter from the lab stating that I have scattered Fibroglandular density (which I googled and only gave me more to be concerned about) which is why I need a rescan, I am at peace.  I don’t know what the future may hold, it may be nothing or it may be something.  I don’t know.  However, I do know who is in Control and who knows the unknown and that I am one of His. Either way I’ll get through this journey and be thankful.  I am richly blessed by so many and know that I am never alone.

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What I learned in my first RTO

This weekend I ran in my first RTO (Reno Tahoe Odyssey Race).  For those who are unfamiliar with this race its a 178 mile relay race that starts in Reno, travels up to Lake Tahoe, goes around the lake, drops down into Carson City, then up to Virigina City and then back into Reno where we started at and is ideally ran in a 24 to 30 hour time span.  There are typically 12 runners per team and they pass the “baton” in a relay through out the race.  I was assigned leg or as runner 11, which consisted of a total of 17.8 miles.  I was only able to run 14 of those miles but could not run 3 due to an allergy attack.

But I’m not writing this to go into the physcial aspect of this event, even though it did push me to my limits.  I want to express the amazing things I observed and learned from my teammates, specifically my vanmates.

I went into this race only knowing some of their names and a few of their faces.  I’d met them distantly through work but really had no idea about who they were or what their personalities would be like. To say I was out of my comfort zone would be putting it mildly.  To those who know me well, I have alot of anxiety about mingling in large groups of people, especially by myself.  This anxiety causes some severe physical problems such as constant nausea and upset stomach not to mention bathroom issues.  So between my anxiety about pushing my body to its physical limits and then my social anxiety (and not to mention my health issues) I was really pushing the limitations of my strength.  However, whether good or bad I am a very stubborn woman, and I was determined to conquer this race.  I have admired how my husband has ran in it for 3 years now and I wanted to at least try it once.

On Friday morning I awoke with severe butterflies in my stomach, feeling like I was going to throw up.  I was only able to eat 1 fried egg and 1 sausage link, before my upchuck reflex started to kick in.  I contented myself that maybe later I could handle more.  Tom and I left the house at 6:20 am to start our long day and night.  We arrived at the park in time and were able to find my team.  Thankfully I had attended a couple of meetings prior to race day so I at least knew their names and could match the name to the faces.  We took the obligatory pictures, loaded the vans with our stuff, and made arrangements of what the plan was going to be.

My van was the 2nd running van, which meant we had to wait.  I hate waiting.  It just gives time for my anxiety to work overtime and cause more stomach problems.  My van decided to wait at a runner’s home (actually it was the home of 2 of our runners, they were husband and wife).  This was awkward but it gave me a glimpse into the the life of this couple.  I appreciated seeing their home, meeting their adorable daughter and getting a quiet chance to talk individually with some of my van mates.  It turned out to be a blessing and calmed some of my fears.  I actually had some things in common with them and that eased my anxiety a bit.

Unfortunately for me my anxiety kicked in again once we got on the road.  I handled it the best I could by being silent and listening to everyone around me.  I would chat when I had something to add to the conversation, but pretty much I was typically  quiet.  They were alot more charistmatic in their energy and approach to the day, where as I was more reserved.  I admired there enthusiasm and hoped it would rub off on me.

Our first challenge as a team appeared early in the race.  The first van got stuck in traffic and their runner completed his leg before they arrived.  Our van arrived on the scene first.  Our driver, who was an alternate runner, immediately put on his shoes and jumped out to run while we helped the runner to revive (he had just run his required 8 miles plus 2 more miles in the hot sun with no support at all).  It was impressive to see him react so quickly and to not even hesitate.  It was also impressive to see how far the runner that had completed his run kept pushing himself.  As usual, even though I was impressed I thought negatively about my own weakness in strength.

After this challenge our Van was up to run its section.  I watched as each runner (there were 4 in front of me) took their turn and performed awesomely.  I was so impressed an amazed at their speed and strength.  Their legs were hard and up hill but they each conquered them with grace and strength.  I knew I couldn’t match them, but I had to try.  Then it was my turn. My stomach was in complete knots and my legs felt like jelly but I knew I had to try this so I got out and waited for the exchange then ran.  Surprisingly, I did much better than I thought.  However, the last mile I struggled immensely.  It was encouraging  to me each time I saw my van mates along side the road.  Also I have to admit I kept telling myself I wanted to give runner 12 the chance to see Tahoe in the light of day (the last time he ran this route it was dark) so I pushed myself hard to run faster.  It was knowing that someone else was depending on me that pushed me through that final mile.

Our team finally reached the 2nd major exchange, where we switched van teams again.  It was dark and cold out but everyone was on a runner’s high.  It was so invigorating to see all these people working so hard to achieve their physical goals and work together.  I loved it!

After the exchange we went and ate a proper meal.  All of us were exhausted and hungry.  We stopped at Denny’s and cleaned up and pigged out.  One of the runner’s gifted us all by paying for our meal.  The generosity was very kind and with Tom and I being on such a tight budget this week my appreciation was great.  Next it was time for a short rest in a store parking lot while we waited for the 3rd major exchange.  I could tell all the teams were trying to get some shut eye, even if it was just for a few hours.  I would like to say that I slept but sadly I couldn’t.  With the combination of my nerves (yes I still had bad anxiety I was only able to eat half of my meal), the cold, and my very good hearing I couldn’t sleep soundly.  I was able to doze a bit but that was it.

After 5 hours Van 1 showed up, unfortunately our team was so behind, so we were instructed that we would have to leap frog (have runners from both vans running their legs at the same time) in order to catch up with the majority of the RTO runners.  This was disheartening news to all of us.  We were tired and cold and still had 2 legs to run with a minimal breather.  I listened to all my van mates, they were justifiably frustrated but determined to keep at it, even if it was going to hurt.  The thought of skipping a leg or two never entered their minds.  I was so impressed by their integrity and character to be honest at this stage.  It would of been so easy just to skip, but no one suggested it and I was for the first time that night really proud and honored to be a member of this team.

So with this determined attitude our van started on leg 2.  It was after 3 am in the morning.  There were no other runners on the road except us and one other team.  Our driver had been getting ancy so he asked if he could help and run a leg.  Our first runner let him have hers, her third leg was going to be a killer uphill so she was more than willing to share.  He took off with a strong start, it turned out his run was a straight 1,000 feet uphill run in the dark leading away from Tahoe.  He ran up as the van followed 5 to 10 feet behind him.  I couldn’t get over his determination, he totally killed it! Next it was runner 2 to go out, she had to run a curvy 3.5 mile downhill.  Runner 2 did an equally amazing job, you could tell she was hurting but her wicked sense of humor had us all giggling each time we paralleled her with the van to give her water and she had a snarky remark to make about the conditions we were in. Then it was time for our 3rd runner, he like our first runner was a machine so determined to see it to the end, even with the grueling, cold, dark run ahead of him, he kept at it.  At one point he told us to drive ahead, he didn’t care for us following him.  We drove ahead and waited.  He arrived but not without telling us about seeing eyes in the brush, obviously there had been some coyotes watching him.  He handled it like a pro.  Next was his tenacious wife.  I have never met such a fiery little soul.  Once she got going there was nothing that was going to stop her.  She just trucked on as the dawn arose in front of us.  However, she hit a wall at her last mile and struggled to walk to us with an aching hip muscle.  Once again our driver came in to help finish the leg.  Next it was my turn.

Again I was impressed and feeling less than equal to my fellow van mates.  I even had an emotional moment and almost let my anxiety take over and let my tears break though, but our driver who I was now considering to be like a big brother encouraged me that I could do this.  So I got out and ran.  I felt good and strong, my butterflies went away and the hills didn’t seem overwhelming.  I was actually starting to enjoy myself.  Then it happened my head itched (the first sign of allergies), then my eyes watered (I was wearing my pollen proof sunglasses) this wasn’t good.  Next I took a breath and my throat tightened.  I ignored the pain in my chest as I started to feel the struggle to get air, my throat felt tighter and tighter.  I knew I was in trouble.  Then the coughing started.  I saw the van up ahead and thought if I could just get to them then I could get help.  Thankfully, 2 of the runners were outside stretching.  They saw me coming up, assuming I wanted water they handed it to me.  I shook my head no vigorously and tapped my throat, it was getting harder to breath.  I tried to mimic my hands for my inhaler as I rushed for the drivers door where my meds were.  Our driver jumped out with my Epi pen ready to stick my leg.  I shook my head no again and pointed inside, one of the runners yelled no, get her inhaler, they quickly handed it to me and I took 2 shaky long inhaled puffs putting my head between my knees.  All I could hear was everyone talking as I was escorted into the van.  I was handed water and I croaked out asking for my pills.  When I finally stopped shaking I saw that our driver had taken over my run for me.  I still had 3 miles to go.  I was so relieved for the help that tears had jumped to my eyes and I just wanted to cry in relief, but I was mad at myself for being so weak and I felt ashamed too.  It was so hard, but no one judged me.  They cared instead, they comforted me and encouraged me, which made me want to cry more in gratitude.  I knew then that these were special people.  People with hearts of gold.

Our team finally finished up our leg 2 and took a breather at another shopping center.  We revived with coffee, tea, and smoothies.  Took a break to change our clothes and have a bathroom break then we left for leg 3.  This was the real tester, we weren’t getting a 3 to 4 hour break this time we were diving into another leg of running immediately.  I was too exhausted from my allergy attack to care anymore, but the lessons/story I witnessed weren’t over.

We reached the spot for our first runner within 45 minutes and she was raring to go.  I’ve never seen someone run so hard and so fast up hills as I saw that late morning.  I watched in awe as she climbed the hill and passed runner after runner.  I was blown away by her strength.  Next was runner 2, she wasn’t as snarky this time around but she was determined.  You could see it on her face.  She conquered that run and did awesome.  Runner 3 was up and he was nervous, his run was straight down hill on a rocky trail that wasn’t clearly marked with no support, then he had another 3 miles to go after that.  We drove down this hill keeping things light with humor while we drove to meet him at the bottom.  Our runner came down shortly after we arrived.  It was obvious things weren’t good.  He was hurting.  We all knew he wanted to cave and give in but would later regret doing that.  Once again our driver, our encourager, jumped out to help.  He ran and walked side by side with our runner constantly encouraging him.  Next up was our sprightly 4th runner.  She was tired and I could see it, but she was determined too. The outside temperature had increased up into a humid 85 degrees. We watched her and followed her as she ran, she held together well until the last mile and half then her achilles flared out with pain.  Our first runner jumped out the van this time and gave her the moral encouragement to finish her leg of the race.

Now it was my turn.  I was still weak from my allergy attack but I knew I could at least get 3 miles in.  My team was worried, they had seen how I almost collapsed before, I believe they had decided to jump out and take over if I showed signs of weakness.  The first mile I felt strong and good, but after mile 1 I started to feel the pull of exhaustion.  At this point I said a quick prayer asking for strength and wishing Tom could be there.  Within minutes a miracle happened, Tom appeared.  He drove down the road honking the horn of my car at me.  to say I was relieved would be an understatement.  I was ecstatic on the inside.  My hero, my love, was here!  I felt like I could do this with him by my side.  He pulled up along side of me in the car driving slowly, I asked if he could pace me.  He said yes, and then I asked him to work out the details with my van mates who were following me.  A few minutes later he was by my side running with me.  My van drove on ahead yelling out they would see me up the road and that runner 12 was going to get a head start.  Runner 1 came along side me in my car and said she would be near if we needed help.

So Tom and I ran/walked for another 3 miles.  I felt good and relieved at the same time.  I wasn’t alone.  If I had another attack Tom would be there to help me too.  I did well until mile 4 then I hit a wall.  My van team had returned and said they knew I was in safe hands and that they would see me at the finish line.  They left the car keys with Tom so that we could drive to the finish once my leg was done.  After they left I pulled what little I had in me to run a bit more, this was all that I had left.  I made it about 5 more minutes and then my body felt on fire.  My lungs were burning, my thighs were aching I just wanted to collapse.  I actually did cry at this time.  Tom kept steadily encouraging me and dumping water over my head to cool me down.  We finally made it to the top of the hill, ran down the hill and finished at my exchange point.  I wanted to collapse, but knew I had one more thing to do, the finish line.

Quickly we got into the car as I texted my team, they were at the finish line waiting for me.  I cried in joy and in appreciation.  They waited for me!  It made my heart swell.  We arrived at the park and I jumped out of the car.  As I trotted down the path there they were waiting.  They clapped in encouragement and then joined me.  We all laughed and congratulated one another.  It felt like a homecoming and an end at the same time.  I was so happy to see all of their faces.  Slowly we jogged across the finish line together as a team.

I have yet to fully wrap my ahead around this whole experience, but one thing that stuck out to me the most was the camaraderie and the support that 12 strangers gave one another for no other reason but to work as a team.  We each knew we weren’t going to win any prizes or awards, but we all had one thing in common we wanted to complete this run.  I saw people who I barely know give support, encouragement and strength to each other.  I shared many a joke, a giggle, a moan of pain with 6 wonderful people.  I was lifted up and taken care of when I was weak.  And mostly I was accepted as part of a team.

For many who have played sports in their youth you probably have experienced this.  But for me this was a first.  I was never into sports much as a kid or a teen.  I preferred art, literature and music.  I bonded with people over outings, church retreats and scholastic trips.  I had not ever gone through this kind of physical demanding experience with a team of people.  I was always afraid and felt that I would fail due to my health issues and clumsiness.  But now, after going through it I’ve come to realize its not about physical perfection or strength, these activities are about inner character and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.  I have done this in other areas but never with this level of intensity.

I’m thankful for this experience and relish the memories I have.  I also treasure the new friendships I have created in it.  I can’t honestly say I’m willing to do this again (I’m still recovering from the ordeal), but I’m not going to say I won’t do it either.  This group I was blessed to be with taught me that my anxieties can be overcome and that people do care more than you know.  It also reminded me that’s it okay to open myself up to people, that sometimes when you do you will be greatly blessed by how big of a heart people do have.

 

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Sometimes Parenting Just Sucks

Warning:  Whine-fest ahead, please ignore if you don’t want to read a grown woman’s whining.

One would think after almost 22 years of parenting I would learn to handle my stresses of parenting better.  But no, I do the same things I have always done, turn to the fastest, closest source of chocolate (currently the hidden chocolate chips in our freezer and my daughter’s chocolate chip cookies)  and pig out while watching cartoons, while wishing for the simpler days of parenting where all I had to do was give the child in question a time out or a good swat on the butt when they were naughty.

Today, was a normal day of dealing with my witty 16 year old son and his best friend who we carpool.  They were doing the normal quips, know it all comments, and smirks/laughter at private jokes, but this mama was not in the mood.  My stress levels are at the max right now due to an overflowing pile of work and self-inflicted pressure to push my running regime so I don’t fail at the upcoming RTO race, that personally has me freaked out.  It didn’t help that while my son was doing his normal dialogue with his buddy he was driving and the overactive mama/driver instructor was irritated beyond belief at the level of distractedness and cavalier attitude about driving.  I had to calm my nerves internally with many prayers of frustration to the Good Lord, while responding verbally to the combined quips of said young men.

So the result once we got safely home:  eating 3 cookies, 2 handfuls of chocolate chips and then protein shake (all watching the classic cartoon of Tom and Jerry, wishing for easier days) with a six mile run afterwards to work off my stress/sweet tooth binge and get my miles in for endurance building.

Some days, parenting can be frustrating and some days it is wonderful.  And then there are the days where it is both.  I know today was only temporary but some days I wonder if it will ever get easier or better.  I’ve had plenty of more experienced parents tell me I will miss this and long for these days.  I know they are right to a degree because I miss the baby, toddler, pre-school, elementary stages and yes even the middle-school days. Especially so, when I’m around parents with little ones and see the cuddles and giggles.

But honestly, I’m tired.  I’m tired of the struggle for whose will is the strongest, the constant repetition of common sense, house rules, etc., I’m tired how far to push my young adults and when to back off and let them fall or fail.  I’m tired of being pushed to my emotional limit.  I’m tired of being outnumbered 4 to 1 when I’m mentally tired from work.  It gets wearing on the spirit and body.  I want to treasure these days and lock them in my memory as the Bible says Mary did with Jesus, but honestly its hard and it plain sucks at times.

So what can I do? Pray for strength, whine to my best friends and whatever family will listen, eat chocolate, run my miles, and put my mama panties back on. Being a Mom is a blessing and it’s worth it and I know it.  I love all my kids dearly and am thankful for all the good, the bad and the ugly of parenting.  Thank you for reading if you were willing and I ask that you say a prayer for all us parents that are in the trenches.  We do get tired, we get stressed and even if we don’t ask for help or a listening ear it is much appreciated when its there.  Now on to the treadmill to finish my stress relief . . . . .

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Reconciliation and Restoration Among other Changes

The past 3 weeks have been full of changes for me.  Some were self-caused, other’s occurred through family.  Either way it was change.

Let me start back a few months.  I have always struggled with depression and insecurity.  This last year with the wedding of our second born, the graduation of our third, my hubby’s increase in traveling and all the changes combined I hit a wall emotionally.  I had finally had enough so I drew inward.  At first I thought and made some positive changes like my diet/exercise routine (which led to weightloss), backing off of Facebook, changing churches and focusing on what was most important to me. But in my drive to work on myself I also buried my pain and hurts.  I buried them so much I felt as though I walked away from them and therefore (in my mind at least) they were gone.  Little did I know how sharply they would creep up to tear me down again.

With all these new, improved changes my dear hubby and I decided to immerse ourselves into our new church.  We finally felt ready to dive back in after a 12 year hiatus of healing and recovery.  Ironically enough God felt we needed to pickup where we left off.  My hubby dealt with an issue he thought was long buried (that is his story to tell) whereas I have gently been reminded about the reconciliation and restoration.  Since our last confrontation  I backed off from the people in my life and put a barrier between me and them.  I was tired of getting hurt, of feeling left out and not belonging. To be fair I had reached out a few times and even bonded with one but the scars that ran deep from 12 years ago seeped into the new scratches of miscommunication with people and made me wary or guarded.  I saw the potential of hurt so I retreated.  I had let my fear of pain take over.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  I even had what I thought to be rational reasoning for the distance I put there.  But as time went on, the rational reasoning turned into overthinking assumptions, paranoia of thinking the worst, and in the end silence.

This is where I bring you to the present.  Last week, with not a thought of old relationships, I attended my first women’s bible study at our new church.  I was excited and hopeful.  I had no idea the conviction that would lay on my soul.  The ladies group has been going through a Beth Moore study about King David.  They watch a video, discuss a little bit about the workbook questions then move on to prayer.  Nothing intimate or profound at least to an outside observer.  However, for me, it was a definite God moment.

The scripture that the video was focused on was about the time when King David’s daughter Tamar was raped by her half brother Ammon and then 2 years later Absolam murdered him out of anger for the rape of his sister.  Throughout the whole story it was emphasized how the lack of communication and the lack of dealing with the anger, the pain, the betrayal led to the falling apart of this family and another death.

Now this is not the first time I’ve read or listen to this story, but and I mean BUT its the first time God poked me in the ribs and whispered in my ear to say this is what your life, the life that I have blessed you with will turn out like if you don’t obey Me now.  At first I said no, that’s not us, we don’t murder, we don’t kill, but then He reminded me of the scriptures where Jesus says to just think evil of one another or to think hateful thoughts of one another is the same as murder/killing.  And then immediately 2 names came to my mind.  The conviction was so deep, so moving I wanted to call them right away.  But instead I decided to pray.  My dear hubby always is telling me not to rush, to think it out first so I prayed.  However, this time praying made the conviction more stronger, more scriptures were brought to my mind.  Finally I had enough.  So with shaking fingers I texted each person individually and invited them out to dinner.  I thought only if this is from God will they say yes.  I knew from previous times they were usually to busy to respond quickly or immediately to me.  So you can imagine my surprise when I got a yes response from both.  Then I knew it was from God.

The next 2 evenings I spent having heart to hearts and very bluntly, honest, and a little painful conversations.  But for the first time in a long time I felt refreshed.  I believed that this might work.  We might finally be the reconciled and restored in such a way that I had dreamed of so many years ago before scars, disappointments, misunderstandings, doubts, and fears took over.  I also felt my anger dissipate, the wariness faded, and the scratches heal over.

I thought this was the end of the God-moving time for me (He usually gives me breaks to catch my breath).  However, God wasn’t done with me yet.  The next were changes, not for me directly but for my babies.  Our oldest daughter who has been looking for a job for almost 3 years was finally blessed with one, and not only was it just any job but her dream job.  Following this our oldest son (child #3) announced he was joining the national guard.  Both changes mean 2 more kids leaving the nest this year.  Both changes were brought by God working in my babies’s lives.  Both changes will bring a significant change in our family circle.  And both changes show me the need, the value of extended family connections and friend connections.

So, as usual with me, I have been struggling with an emotional reaction to all of this.  Thankfully, one of the persons that I had reconciled and restored our relationship with has been sending me encouraging, thoughtful texts.  That has helped me to not feel so alone.  I also have areas of work both spiritually, socially, physically and professionally to keep my mind and body busy.

This season of life is hard.  But when I do take the time to stop and think I believe and see how all the trials, the hardships, the relationships, the challenges have prepared me for this.  How the young wife, mother, daughter, friend that existed 12 years ago when I first encountered my first heart-breaking, heart-wrenching betrayal faced those difficulties has turned out today.  All I can say is Thank you, thank you to God.  Going through the fire isn’t never easy, being molded/shaped in the ashes of pain sometimes takes a long time.  But coming out and cooling in the air of holy healing brings a spirit of refreshment, renewal and hope for the future.  It also gives you the strength and iron to be willing to face the unknown because you made it this far and you have topped that one more mountain in the journey towards never-ending peace, joy and ultimately God.

I really don’t like pain, I avoid it at all cost.  I also really don’t like opening my inner insecurities to others, I also avoid that at all cost.  However, I’m learning.  I’m learning its that transparency, that willingness to take a risk, a chance to relate, to connect, to love, to trust, to forgive and also that risk of pain is what God wants me to do.

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Facebook Experiment

For my 2017 new year’s resolution I resolved to take a break from Facebook, to digitally disconnect and sort through my emotions and how it was all connected.  Oddly enough it was the passing comment of a family member that triggered this idea.  I was told with a well meaning intent, “Thank goodness for Facebook, it’s how I keep track of what you’re up to!”  Normally, this comment wouldn’t bother me because it was true, at least in my mind true to all the family and friends that live in another state.  But what caused it to bother me was that this family member lives only 30 minutes from me.

Now, I may behave as though my life is extremely busy, but honestly it is not.  I leave the house at 6 am, drop boys off at school, work until 2 pm, pick boys up from school, run errands or doctor’s appointments if we have them that day and than am home by 4 pm maybe 5 on a particularly busy day.  Other than that I am home, working on my various hobbies, watching movies with kids, and doing my share of the household work.  So to hear thatcomment hurt, but deeper than that I realized I didn’t feel lonely and I couldn’t understand why.  My social world is very dull and limited, outside my coworkers and my immediate family.  So I started to think about  what was going on.  Then a light bulb went on one night while I was perusing through all the FB feeds as was my nightly ritual.  FB had become my social outlet, my social world.  I thought how sad is that?

So, I thought I need to figure out how bad my dependence on FB was for a social outlet.  I backed off on using it.  Unfortunately, I am a bit obsessive and an extreme creature of habit.  I struggled to not click on the app, to not check my laptop at home, or to check my tablet at work.  I even prayed about it in frustration at my weakness over what I was coming to see as an addiction.  I finally came to the realization I needed it to be off!  So that is where my experiment started.  I decided for new years I would take a break until I felt it was safe for my emotional health to get back on.

The past 2 months I learned alot.  I learned I did have a social addiction to FB.  I also learned how little face to face social interaction I actually had with all the people I considered “close”.  I learned I had grown lazy in my time with God, in my desire to fulfill my dream to write a true story, how I hadn’t read a real book in quite a while, I hadn’t completed any of my craft projects in a long time and sadly how disconnected my immediate family has become because we all are guilty of too much screen time.  It was almost like one of those sci-fi movies where technology consumes us that we lose who we are and it upset me.

Honestly, it took me 2 weeks to get over the emotions of breaking away from FB.  I went through the typical, psychological symptoms of loss.  Depression (which is a constant “friend” of mine), loneliness, feeling lost, not knowing what to do with myself, temptation, etc. I was miserable those 2 weeks, but knew I had to stick it out, however, once I got used to it I began to enjoy my time with my loved ones once  more.  And my stress levels dropped because I wasn’t unintentionally hurt by random comments or pictures that are posted (I find many of us don’t realize how their comments and pictures can emotionally affect people, I know I didn’t).  I also began to understand who was really invested in my life and in my family’s life.  The ones who reached out, who asked, who connected with us to see what was going on in our lives.  I also began talking on the phone again to family and friends.  I was even inspired to start socially gathering with people in my life again, more so than I have in a while.

On the flip side, it also showed me how awkward and how truly disconnected I am with many people in my life that I had mistakenly thought I was close too.  This has saddened me greatly and caused a certain level of  broken hearted tears.  To tell you the truth, I’m still figuring out and praying with how to deal with that part, but I won’t bore you with that aspect.

This experiment as painful as it has been though has been a good thing.  It’s taught me about digital boundaries for myself and about what I truly am looking for in friendships and relationships as a whole.

I have reactivated my FB account because I finally feel ready to be on it again, but this time I have set strong boundaries to never cross again.  The app will not be on my phone or tablet ever again,(it’s too easy to access).  I will only view it at home on my laptop from now on. I will limit my weekly visit to check out FB and scale back my posts in general.

I know not everyone needs these types of boundaries and can control themselves.  I also know other people have no problem balancing equal face to face relationship versus digital ones.  But for me I need rules.

I admit I’m glad to be returning.  I have missed connecting with friends via FB that I rarely get to see, but I know now I need to cultivate the face to face friendships just as much.  I also miss being able to post joyous or good news that our family experiences’  like Matthew’s baptism or Tayler’s chance to get a job at bakery (which is her dream).  I also have missed seeing the good and joyous news of friends who have had babies, going on fantastic vacations, announcing weddings, etc.

So with that thought in mind I’ll see you on FB, just more cautiously and what I really would love is to see you in person!  So call, text or msg me for a cup of coffee!  I’d love to really see and visit with you.

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Sticking to It.

Sticking to something is one of the hardest things I struggle with.  It doesn’t matter what area of my life but I’ve struggled with consistency.  It can range from my relationships with people, my study of God’s word, my prayer life, the eating plan I’ve adopted, to training for the next 4 major races I’m entered in to pursuing my dreams of writing a book.  It doesn’t matter what the desire is, but at one point or another I fall off the wagon.  Like I did today with my eating.  I know I will pick myself up tomorrow (thanks to the constant coaching/support of my hubby) but I’m still disappointed with myself.

Also I’m disappointed I’ve dropped the ball on my writing.  The hunger in my soul to write is still there.  It longs to break free. But the monotony of daily life, the responsibilities of my position at work, home and to my health often get in the way. There always seems to be something more important to get done or I’m too tired to fire the old pistons in my brain.  Will I ever get inspiration to write and the will to complete it?  I’ve wanted to write a book since as long as I can remember, but  just can’t seem to stay consistent with it.

I know, I know I’ve read all the blogs and tips/tricks to help myself.  From setting up the same time daily, finding a specific location to write in, sticking to it, be consistent, blah blah blah.

But in the end it comes back to me and my struggle with consistency.  My life is already so micro managed by all my other responsibilities, I hesitate to add one more micro-managed task into it.  But this is when I ask myself why do I hesitate?  It is fear? Fear of being overwhelmed,fear of not having any down time in my already full schedule, fear of failing, fear of when I actually do it that I’m no good? Yes, yes it is all these things.  So what do I do?  Do I keep avoiding it and just pin away after that dream? Or do I actually act on it?

I know what I need to do.  I need to act on it.  I need to stick to it.  I need to stop dreaming and doing nothing, and actually commit to it.  Commitment to a dream,  a goal has never been my strength.  I’m going to need help.  I think I will enlist the help of my hubby.  He may not be able to keep tabs on me as he does with my diet, but he can help me organize my schedule.  Well at least I can use him as my sounding board to find a conclusion.

Back to my responsibilities.

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