For the past week and a half I’ve been allowing my kids to sleep in and stay up late, playing video games in their rooms all day. However, I’ve been listening to Celebrate Calm parenting podcasts and now I’m feeling motivated to be more intentional and proactive with engaging my kids in healthier daily activities. We will see how I feel about it in the morning, but after talking with the kids this evening, I think they understand that their state of total freedom is ending. They were laughing and joking and even offering up ideas for activities. So tomorrow I’m going to try to stay up when my alarm goes off at 7 am. I’ll have my coffee and devotional time with Jesus, and then I’ll scribble out a daily plan. Hopefully a plan better than the one I proposed this afternoon (pictured below).
I’m going to try to make this a fun, adventurous time. I’ll still want them to incorporate some official schoolwork, using the resources their teachers have been sending us, but I also want to capitalize on this time I’m having with them. This is like bonus time, and I want to take full advantage of this and use it to get to know my kids better. I’m looking forward to this and I’m praying God will bless this time. If all goes well, they will look back on this year with fond memories*.
*I wanted to call this new endeavor “Corona Camp” but my son didn’t think that was a very good idea. Not age appropriate, or something, I guess. I’m open to other suggestions if you’ve got any!
So, there is a coronavirus pandemic in full force. For the past week, we’ve been practicing social distancing. This a term that one week ago had to be explained. Now it seems everyone is using it as if it’s been a common part of speech all our lives.
As a mostly introverted person, social distancing is not very difficult for me. Mostly. I’m happy to stay home. But even for this introvert I’m concerned. I wake up each morning with a panic rising in my belly. I worry about how long this is going to last. Is it even working? What upcoming events were we looking forward to that will need to be cancelled or drastically altered? How will my kids be affected? Am I going to have to start homeschooling them? What activities and experiences are they missing out on? And the biggest question – how can I continue to parent well and keep my panicky feelings from spilling out on my children? I do not want them to be negatively affected by this. I want them to become strong, resilient human beings. The way survivors of The Depression and World War II turned out to be incredible human beings.
The real truth is that almost all of my nagging questions are things I can do pretty much nothing about. Worrying is futile. And all it does is feed that panic, allowing it to rise further. So, knowing this truth, I repeat it to myself and I remain rooted in my faith in Christ. He knows I’ve lived through uncertain times, and He was the one who helped me live through them and come out stronger. I have no reason to believe He won’t do the same thing again, for all of us.
Stay home. Stay connected. Stay well.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 NIV
So, folks. I’ve gotta get this nagging voice out of my head, so I’m just gonna spill it. I said I would talk about what I heard at the Abbey almost two weeks ago, so here goes nothin’.
The biggest revelation, the biggest message I heard God speaking to me was that I need to keep sharing my stories, and with that I need to get back to writing my memoir.
We were sitting in the chapel, following along with the Psalms the monks were chanting, and they came to Psalm 40, which I recognized to be the one given to me when I lost my hearing. Given to me, as in, I heard the song “Jesus, Lover Of My Soul” one time in a movie many years prior, and then it was all I could hear in my head when I could very literally hear nothing else. That song, that Psalm, became my mantra for over a year. The words “taken me from the miry clay” resonated with me on so many levels.
Reading the Psalm in church got my attention, but that’s not the part that spoke the loudest to me. What spoke to me most was when I went back to the cottage and read the Psalm for myself. Verse 3 in particular, and I immediately felt God saying that I needed to continue writing – “singing my song” – so that people will see Him and put their trust in Him.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
What my sister helped me see was that writing my memoir is much like training for and running a long race. It takes time, it might not look pretty, but the most important thing is that you keep working towards the goal. The key is consistency. So even if it’s just a half paragraph a day, or even every other day, it’s okay. I just need to be committed to not quitting. I will get this memoir written. It’s going to take a lot of patience, and you can bet I’ll need a lot of help, but dang it I’ll have it done eventually.
I have over 7000 words written at this point, and I’m kind of stuck as to where to go next, but I’ll keep chipping away at it. I’ve told a lot of small stories to make up those 7000 words but there is still a surprising amount of detail left to tell in order to make it a complete story. Some of those are details I don’t possess, memories that aren’t mine to tell because I was either sleeping or only somewhat conscious, but that’s where I’ll need to utilize my new “asking for help” skills.
It’s quite intimidating, the idea of writing a book. I have author friends and family so I know it’s possible. Normal human beings do it all the time. I just worry that it’s not possible for me, because I have cognitive struggles from the M.S. But that’s the primary thought that’s kept me from working on the book, so I need to stop thinking it.
Cognitive struggles due to M.S. Big Fat Sigh. This is probably one of the most difficult parts of the disease for me to accept. I was always the smart girl, the know-it-all, the straight A student. “That Mindy, she’s so smart”. I never had to struggle to understand things. That 4.0, smart girl persona? I let that define me, and now that that part of me is being chipped away, it seems my self-worth is being chipped away right along with it. This is painful to write about, but maybe it needs to be said, because as I’m writing this I am getting rather emotional. And in my experience, that lump in my throat is usually the first step towards healing a deep wound I have been ignoring for far too long. I need to swallow that lump, along with my pride.
I struggle daily with forgetting things. I know people say this is typical of aging, but I know it’s more than that. I also struggle with comprehending simple concepts, whether they are new to me or not. I struggle with holding conversations and putting ideas together. I struggle hard with writing, and this is the most heartbreaking. I have always loved writing. I have kept a diary since I was a little girl. I started blogging back when you had to write your own code. I journal thoughts in my head throughout the day, and sometimes those thoughts actually make it to my written journal. Just today, my laundry folding was interrupted by this blog post forming itself in my head, itching to get out.
Writing is part of who I am, so when I set such an ambitious goal as writing a memoir, having never written a real book before, you can imagine it’s frustrating to feel like you are unable to make any progress. When your brain just refuses to make the necessary connections, it’s very discouraging.
But! I read a meme recently that reminded me that when God calls us to something, he factors in our failures and frailty. So I’m taking that as truth and leaning on Him, always and forever.
Last weekend my sister and I traveled south to stay at an Episcopalian monastery. This has been an annual tradition for us, and this was our 9th year. One of the ministries of this monastery, besides constant prayer and worship, is to provide a place for others to retreat from life, reconnect and reset. Pushing the reset button looks different for everyone, but for my sister and me three days of time alone and away from the hustle and bustle is the way to go. We are both very introverted, so time alone definitely recharges our batteries.
Every year we have stayed in a cottage at the back of the property. They do have a dormitory near the chapel and main building, but we have never stayed there. Well, I have, on solo visits prior to our annual tradition of going together. We enjoy the solitude of St. Benedict’s cottage, away from the monks and the other guests (except when we are attending chapel services). We also really enjoy having a kitchen for preparing our own food, which you don’t get with the dormitory. We started this tradition with elaborate menus and recipes, and as the years have gone by and we get older (and perhaps a little lazier) we have reduced the complexity of our menu plan. We have never felt hungry or lacking, and we always go home with food leftover.
Every year has been different, but also much the same. Nothing about the monastery has changed since we started coming. The cottage looks identical now to the cottage we stayed at our first visit in 2011. The schedule of church services is the same, and the chapel smells as it always does, of heavenly incense. The lack of change is strangely comforting. What is different for us every time is how much we are dealing with in our lives, good and bad. Every year one or both of us has had challenges we are battling, and the beauty and the gift of these weekends is that we are able to really look inward and upward for answers, reassurances, and guidance.
I can’t say what these weekends mean to my sister, but for me it’s a time to reconnect with each other, and also with the Lord. I have great conversations with God on these weekends. Not that I don’t have conversations with Him at other times, but the difference at the Abbey is that I do a LOT more listening than talking. And boy, does He have a lot to say to me. I plan to share some of what I heard from Him in a later post, so stay tuned for that.
Overall it was a very transforming and therapeutic weekend, and I look forward to many more down the road. What sorts of things help you reset and recharge?
I’ve been fartin’ around on Facebook all morning, and then I did some filing, put away clean dishes from the dishwasher, and now I’m letting my phone charge back up so I can go for a run this afternoon. I could really go for a nap but I pretty much always feel better after a run so I’m opting for that instead.
I’ve allowed myself to get really busy with all the commitments I took on, and I think I’m finally getting a handle on managing it without moving around like a headless chicken. I’m finding the key is to allow myself to relax from time to time, and when I say that I mean REAL relaxing, not the fake kind. I’m giving myself permission to sit with my feet up, read a book or crochet, sip some coffee, and NOT feel guilty. It’s really nice, but it’s strange how difficult it is for me sometimes. It does take some self-talking to be totally okay with it. Otherwise I’m just pretending to relax. I may be sitting, but I’m secretly mulling over all the things I “should” be doing at that moment. So the Real Relaxing is nice. Very therapeutic.
I had an interesting thought yesterday while listening to the lecture at Bible Study Fellowship. We were studying the story of the lame beggar at the temple gates in the book of Acts, and the lecturer said that when the man was healed, his life became better because his disability was removed. Something about the way she worded it struck me, and a voice in my heart was asking,
“Mindy, would your life be better if your disability was removed?”
I honestly believe the answer to that question is no. As much as I grieve what I’ve lost, I am even more grateful for what it has added to my life. It has made me a more patient and compassionate person. It has strengthened bonds between my family members and my friends. It has introduced me to new people and new ideas. It has stretched me in so many ways to move outside of my comfort zone. But the most important thing? It’s that God is glorified through all He is doing through me. Because it’s certainly not me. I’m just following His directions. That is the most valuable outcome of all this, and what I have been praying for from the beginning.
As I’ve struggled over these past 6 years with my disability I’ve been trying to find a new normal or a base comfort level. What I realized yesterday is that I am finally at a place of contentment. I am finally at home again in this body and I am content to be where I am. Fully and completely. Hallelujah. Amen?
John 9:3 ESV “but that the works of God might be displayed in Him.”
I’m a little tired today, but it’s still early. There’s a chill in the air, so I’m out here enjoying the chirping of the birds while wrapped in a blanket.
The cool weather has me wishing I was running. With the breeze and the sun, it’s my favorite weather to run in. If I didn’t have neighbors so close on each side I would be doing my exercises out here on the deck. Maybe next year I’ll be old enough to not care, but I’m not there yet.
This morning I was reading Luke chapter 15, the story of the prodigal son, and it reminded me of the ridiculous choices I made way back when in my prodigal days. I also read as part of a devotional reading plan this morning about how we often relate to God in a similar way to how we relate with our earthly fathers. And this led to a strong desire to share my prodigal story with you kind readers. So, here goes.
I was a straight A student in high school, with the exception of that B in gym. I was a well behaved child, mostly. Not necessarily because I was good hearted, but more so that the other kids at school wouldn’t judge me and call me a hypocrite. So when I tossed that graduation cap in the air, I felt like I had been released from the judgment. I could experiment with the world. I wanted to explore. I started saying yes to the party invitations.
Prodigal: “spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant”
That summer, while still living at home, I did a lot of heavy drinking. I discovered a lot of things, like how my friends were acquiring liquor, and also that my body does not like rum. Since I had turned 18 earlier that year, I was able to legally buy cigarettes, so I started smoking too. Menthols, because regular cigarettes were nasty. (Who was I kidding, right? They’re all nasty.) It was a fun summer, but it was mostly regrettable for all the lying I did to my parents.
When I went off to college that fall I thought I had gotten the rebellion out of my system and I could move forward. Famous last words.
I lived in the dorms, down in the valley. I had to walk quite a ways to get to class (up hill! Both ways! In three feet of snow!!). During this time period I was dressing like a dime store punk – greasy hair, long baggy bell-bottom pants, polyester shirts. I kind of wish I had pictures, but we didn’t have digital back then. My new look must have attracted the wrong people because I was befriended by John, who also lived in the dorms. I’ll never forget this conversation: we were walking to class and talking about music and I was telling him how much I liked Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and he asked me – “Oh, do you smoke?” I thought he meant cigarettes, so I quickly answered yes.
And that, my friends, is how easy it was to get started smoking marijuana. This was the beginning of the end of my college experience. I was introduced to pot and as it turns out, I loved it. So much so that I was smoking it all the time. I was sleeping too late, missing class, being a total jerk to my roommate, and doing questionable things I thankfully can’t remember. This went on for months. When our grades were posted and I saw that I was getting C’s, I gave up. I had never in my life gotten C’s, so I couldn’t see any way to come back from it. Without a word to anyone, I went to the registrar’s office and dropped out.
My mom lived in the same town, so I told her first. She graciously allowed me to move my stuff into her dining room and sleep on a cot until I could secure a more permanent space. I don’t remember how long before I told my dad, but I remember we were in a movie theater, waiting for a movie to start. I told him I had dropped out of school, and instead of being angry at me for throwing away my future, he told me he loved me and gave me a great big hug.
I still can’t really describe to you how much these gestures of grace and forgiveness mean to me, even to this day. I trusted I could count on my mom to accept me, but I had expected condemnation from my dad. I expected disappointment, yet I received unconditional love. I was the prodigal son, and he welcomed me home with open arms. He didn’t throw me a party, but he may as well have. That hug was something special. It was a gift that gave me the strength to move forward with my life. To pack up and move on.
Genesis 12:1 (NIV) “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
I spent several months living in an apartment with a couple of my brother’s friends from high school, and eventually (miraculously, perhaps) rededicated my life to following my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God met me on the kitchen floor with a dusty Bible one morning and called me to move to Lansing. It’s where I’ve built so many cherished friendships, and it’s where I met my husband and we are raising our family. It’s where I later learned that my great grandparents built a home and raised their children (my grandfather and great aunt). My grandmother even graduated from the same high school my husband did.
So the miracle that happened here, the end of this story, is that God saw that door I slammed shut with my stupidity and opened a window to a new life, a better life. He welcomed this prodigal daughter back home and threw her a party.
Have you slammed any doors shut in your life? Is God trying to show you a window to something better? Maybe it’s time to dust off that Bible, grab a cup of coffee, and search for it. Pull up a chair and sit with Him for awhile, He’s waiting to show you. If nothing else, He wants to give you a big party-sized hug.
From Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”, “Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic – jealousy especially so – but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it then to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.”
This excerpt from the book really resonated with me, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not about jealousy really, but the slimy and pathetic stuff. This is personal, so bear with me. It’s kind of like ripping off a band-aid to find your wound is still all oozy and gross.
I am a sort of passive-aggressive person. I tend to walk around with my issues held close to my chest, with a smile on my face so nobody will know anything is bothering me. The problem comes when the issues start festering, and it’s hard to contain the angst. It starts spilling out here and there, like when you’re eating popcorn and you think you’re getting it all in your mouth only to find out later you have some stuck in your cowlneck sweater (not that that’s ever happened to me, *wink wink*). No, you can’t hide or ignore your issues. Especially with your family. They live with you, they know you best. They know something’s up.
So lately I’ve been walking around with this resentment in my heart. Ugly, nasty resentment aimed indirectly at my dear, loving, hardworking husband. And it seeps out in nasty ways when tensions are high, or the kids are being more challenging than usual. I just get grumpy and mean and downright nasty. So at church last Sunday I had some extra time to sit and really pray about this. I told God what I was feeling, as if He didn’t already know, and asked Him to help me let it go. I seriously struggle with the letting go. I asked a couple friends to also pray that God would help me let go of this ugliness I was clinging to.
I left church that morning still feeling rather conflicted and icky but I had hope that God would come through on my request, eventually. I had no idea how quickly He would answer my prayer! I went to a baby shower that afternoon and had a conversation with a woman I had not seen in years, and while we talked she was expressing some of the same things my husband has and yet I wasn’t judging her for it the way I had with my husband. The realization came fast and clear, and that’s when something opened up in my heart and I felt like the Grinch when his heart grew bigger. I went home that evening and confessed to my husband why I had been such a grump lately and why I had been so cold towards him on so many occasions. I told him I knew how hard he worked to be the best dad and husband he could be, and that I appreciated it and I was working at becoming more grateful. Guess what? He didn’t look at me with contempt and tell me I could sleep on the couch from now on. Nope. He looked at me with a look of understanding and love and he reached out to hold my hand. Because that’s what marriage is. For better or worse, always.
So, my friends, I share this because I want to encourage you to be brave enough to be humble and gracious, and don’t make friends with your grudges. Call them out for what they are: ugly pieces of garbage. Just let them go. And if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, let Him handle it. It’s kind of His specialty.
I may be deaf and half-blind, but I am and will always be… still Mindy