Anne Frank, Blessings, and Checking Myself

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

As we are settling into sheltering-in-place, I find myself, like most of the people I know, riding a sort of rollercoaster of emotions, now and then. I wonder if you can relate.

I am SO thankful to have my husband, our children and our grandbaby with us during this time.  I also want nothing more than to have my house to myself and do whatever I want BY MYSELF.

I love to cook yummy organic food, make kombucha, fresh juice, bake gluten free yummies and have a really clean kitchen and now I finally have the time to do that – and it feels like that is all I do, around the clock and I just want to go to a restaurant and be waited on and not clean up after my family, but walk away from the table, leaving a nice tip and a big “thank you” for the amazing wait staff.

I had this idea that we would have all of this extra time to deep clean our house and that happened for a minute and now it just feels messy ALL OF THE TIME and I can’t get away from it, mostly.  If I’m stuck in here – especially since it’s been raining for days here in Austin – then I just need my space to be clean and orderly or my depression level goes through the roof and that’s not fun for anyone.

I enjoy grocery shopping and going to the local farmer’s market.  I miss the luxury of running to my neighborhood Sprouts when I’ve forgotten a recipe item, seeing all of the other shoppers’ smiling faces and returning home in less than 15 minutes.  Now, getting food means trying to order from curbside, only to find I can only get about 60-70 percent of what I ordered and that the quickest delivery is over a week away.  Or, going myself, waiting in line for an hour and a half outside the store, separated by tape on the ground from the other shoppers who are wearing masks and gloves and looking at one another suspiciously.  I’ve noticed in these most recent days, people are physically swaying away from passerby’s in the aisles.  It’s like an end-of-the-world movie out there, except, it’s not a movie and it isn’t the end of the world, is it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did some research on Anne Frank’s life recently.  As a girl, I was fascinated by her and every time I read her story or watched a production of it, I would ache for a different ending.  While this is a different situation, with no human being trying to exterminate us (right?), I think there are some valuable life lessons Anne recorded for me.

There were 8 people who shared 450 square feet of living space for 2 years and 1 month!  They did not have the option of going outside during this time.  The group was made up of 2 families and a single man.  They had to wait for very rationed food to be brought to them and risked horrific death every day.

While I am giving myself permission to mourn what has been lost, I am trying to keep things in perspective.  I have enjoyed my garden since I planted it a week ago.  It gives me life.  My Honey and I have been taking our grandboy out for walks in his stroller every day that the weather allows and it has lifted our spirits immensely.  Last week, Arlo and his Auntie Hannah painted on our back deck and then we filled his water table so that he could play and simultaneously wash the paint off of most of his entire body.  It was such a great day!

In the past two weeks SO MANY blessings have reigned down on our family.  Our landlord called me recently and asked how things were going.  After I laughed, told him things could be better for everyone, I imagine, he then told me that we didn’t have to pay rent for the month of April because of the rona.  How does that happen?!  The people I nanny for have repeatedly told me that they won’t let anything happen to me or my family.  They’ve offered to pay our rent or anything else we need.  I’ve told them repeatedly how much their support means to me, but we are okay, they then gave me a generous raise and asked me to do more hours!  They’ve been quarantined for over a month, so I don’t feel endangered.  The added income is huge during this time of my Honey and son being on furlough.  We filed our taxes last Monday and the money for our return was deposited on Friday, just four days later! I was at Costco and as I was leaving, I saw this and it reminded me that we are called to care for one another. Thank you, Costco!

We have food.  We have a roof over our heads.  We  have the choice to go outside and exercise and breath in fresh air.  (Also, have you noticed how many more bees there are out there?  Is that because there are less car/truck/airplane emissions killing them?)  I have friends and family checking in on me.  I have my garden and my Kindle with a bajillion books I’ve been wanting to have the time to read.  (I just finished THE WATER DANCER by TA-NEHISI COATES and it was SO AMAZING!!!!)  I have a computer to write on and more journals than any one woman should claim.

These are scary times.  As of yesterday there were 1,039,439 cases of the coronavirus worldwide, 347,003 of those are in the United States.  There have been 72,638 deaths worldwide and 10,335 of those human beings were Americans.

When I think about the families who can’t be with one another once someone has the virus and too many of those people then die without the humans they most love by their sides, it is utterly heartbreaking.  I pray that they feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and fall into the arms of Jesus.

It all feels surreal, I think, to many of us who haven’t lost someone in our immediate circle of friends or family.  It’s easier to complain about our inconveniences when the threat doesn’t feel real, yet.  My prayer for myself and everyone is that we come out of this kinder, more compassionate, less entitled and closer to Our Pappa God and His calling.  I pray we slow down.  My hope is that we come out of this season more loving human beings than human doings.

 

There’s a Lesson in Here, Somewhere

 

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

For a little bit I was frustrated with people whining about being stuck inside with nothing to do.  REALLY?  If we are the ones fortunate enough to be healthy, then sheltering isn’t a terrible alternative, is it?  There are plenty of things to do…               Write a letter to someone who would love to hear from you.  Call a friend or relative you should check up on or just haven’t had the time to really talk to in a while.  Do yoga – youtube has some great free ones.  Our favorite: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene .  Read a book or write one.  Cook really good food for yourself and/or your family.  Draw, paint.  If you can afford it, order books, food, paint, paper, whatever supplies you need, online or locally and have it delivered so that you can support someone trying to get through this.  If you are cooped up with family, take advantage of this.  We’ve been making yummy dinners and putting puzzles together and playing board games.  We’ve also binged a couple of shows together, but I can only do so much of that.  We’ve been purposely rotating our activities so that we don’t get bored.  We’ve gone on lots of walks and spent time in our backyard.   My favorite thing is to look online for ways to help others during this time.  There are elderly people who can’t leave their homes and they need food, medicine, books, etc.  You can pick it up and simply leave it at their door with a note of encouragement.

I spent the last several days enlarging my garden and planting all of the seeds I saved from last year.  I’ve deep cleaned a room or two – and still have several to go.  I’ve doubled my kombucha production to keep my family healthier and to share with friends and I’ve been cooking up a storm.  Although, if I’m being completely honest, I’m tired of cooking and cleaning.  It feels endless and futile, at times.

This. is. hard. 

It’s important that we take the time we need to grieve.  We can’t really move forward and do good things with a “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” mentality.  Our Pappa God wants to walk through our grief with us.  When we are honest about our pain, and we sit with it, offering it to Him, only then can we move ahead and walk in the identity and plan He has for our lives.

 

So, let’s be honest.  THIS. IS. HARD.

But, it’s been revealing to me.  I’ve seen my privilege and it’s time to take a moment – or a couple of months – and really look at how I’ve been spending my time, how I react when things get “limited.”

I did not go crazy for tp, but if I’m straight with you, I already had 12 rolls in my linen closet because I’m blessed to have a Costco membership and I usually have an abundance of tp and papertowel.  There are people who don’t have the money to stock up more than a 4-pack on payday.  We used to be in that boat, I remember.  Now, I did go a little crazy for organic food and food, in general.  My fallback is to find my security in cash and food.  When my kiddos were little, I always had much more peace when the cupboards were full and some cash was in the bank – which, as previously mentioned, happened because I was busy running up our credit cards.  When those ran low, which was more the norm than the exception, you could find my babies parked in front of the television, with me behind a closed door desperately crying out to God to “bless” me with the stuff that made me feel secure.  With that I would frantically spend the next hours trying to figure out how to get out of our financial crisis completely on my own, with no waiting on Jesus to be found.

So, I found out a couple of weeks ago that the tendency to rest a bit in my full cupboards isn’t completely gone, but more than anything I have rested in my Pappa God.  It seems to me that He is telling me to get still with Him.

It feels a little like the church is very busy making sure that no one gets left feeling alone, meanwhile, maybe we could all use a little or a lot more quiet time with Our Pappa.  Perhaps, we could all use this time to get to know Him and our earthly family members in a way that we just couldn’t when the world was spinning as fast as it always does.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m using this time to reach out to my friends and extended family members.  I’m praying for them and talking to them, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by the Zoom meetings and the seeming panic about keeping everyone SO connected to other human beings.

I’m incredibly thankful that my church is streaming our services and I get to worship “with” my church family – MY WORD!  I have missed this.  I was in tears almost the entire service this past two Sundays because it filled me up so almost completely.  There are so many blessings in the technology available to us during this time and I appreciate that.  I appreciate all my church leadership is doing to keep us connected to each other.  It just feels like everyone and their sister or brother is doing a Bible study, a daily devo or lesson, etc. during this time and we aren’t leaving any space for The Big Guy to be heard.  I’m not so sure He wants us to keep things “as normal as possible” because I don’t think He was terribly thrilled with our old normal.  I think this may be our chance to create a new normal based on His Word and His leading and we can only do that if we get still before Him and stop all of the busy-ness.  We have to trust that He can care for His children better than any of us can.  He is faithful.  He knew this was coming and He will work through this to make things better, if we will only follow His directions.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am finding joy in this quiet.  I am feeling a shaking out that will bring a new order, closer to what He calls me to.

My husband got his last paycheck (a few days late) – last week because his (very small local) company is struggling.  I lost one of my jobs 2 weeks ago and didn’t get to work at all last week.  We have enough money in the bank for next months rent and some money for food and our next car payment.  Our son, who lives with us and is a dad, lost his job, as well.

I am not worried.  When I look back over my life, He has ALWAYS been faithful.

A L W A Y S.

I’m thankful that He has patiently and generously walked this earthly journey with me, waiting for me to trust His faithfulness.  The gratefulness for this peace I’m experiencing in areas I used to be overwhelmingly enslaved to, is a gift that I cannot fully express in mere words.

I am committed to getting quiet with my Pappa God so that I can hear His still, small voice speak truth over my life.  I so do not want to waste this time He has blessed us with – forced upon us.  I think we would be foolish to not see His hand in all of this and ask Him what He wants us to do when this season is over.

People will come from faraway places to pitch in and rebuild the Temple of God. This will confirm that God-of-the-Angel-Armies did, in fact, send me to you. All this follows as you put your minds to a life of responsive obedience to the voice of your God.  – Zechariah 6:15

 

 

Well, Hello 2020 (a coronavirus rant)

2020.

It’s been a year, hasn’t it?!

As we settle into our new reality, one that the donald gaslights now and again (and again), I find myself trying to absorb it all, not just as my husband, children, grandbaby and I experience this, but from a bigger picture kind of viewpoint.

I have loads of opinions.

How are we (Americans) SO incredibly ignorant that we are blaming Asian individuals for this pandemic?!  I’d like to say that it’s especially stupid because most of the people getting attacked by white Americans are also American, but blaming any one people group for something like this is ludicrous.  Even if an individual from any people group has been proven to intentionally try to infect others with something deadly, why in the world are we aiming hatred toward an entire group?!  Also, these racists are so blinded by ignorant hate, that they are targeting anyone who is Asian, not simply Chinese.  At least during 9/11, Bush advised the country to be better and treat fellow American Muslims with respect, but now we’ve got the donald who continually refers to the Coronavirus as the Chinese virus, spurring on increased hatred toward our fellow Americans of Chinese decent.  We need to do SO MUCH better.

I’m TIRED of peeps in their 20’s, give or take, being reckless because they believe they are untouchable, while (ONE) they aren’t, (TWO) they can harm others, and (THREE) they are just setting a selfish, ridiculous example for other human beings on how we should care for one another.

Money is NEVER more important than human lives, and just because you have buckets full of it and the ability to get the best medical care does not mean you get a pass on insinuating you are some kind of freakish hero because you claim you are willing to risk catching covid-19 so that your heirs can have a wealthier future.  The fact that you have the luxury to be concerned about your “heirs,” while the people you represent aren’t sure if they can pay their mortgage next month is your sign.

This bailout situation is driving me a bit batty.  Why are we more concerned with bailing out big businesses before the average American?  The general attitude seems to be that the average person should be ashamed for not having 6 months of wages saved away, but somehow we are panickedly trying to save big corporations who haven’t put away enough to make it through the month – except their shareholders all seem to be living their best lives, still.

Toilet Paper?  Need I say more?  ALL OF THE FOOD and everything else in EVERY grocery store around the country?  It feels a little bit apocalypse-y, right?  Leave some for your neighbor.  Be kind.  It’s so much better than being greedy.

Homeless people, elderly people, immunocompromised people.

Those babies in cages, still.  The adults in cages, still.

A “president” that holds back help because his ego isn’t stroked enough.

Our exhausted, dedicated healthcare workers.  Pray for them, send them notes of encouragement, support them and be thankful for all they are doing and enduring during this tremendous crisis.

Churches and bars that continue to open their doors and invite people to risk their lives.

Did the owner of HL really treat his thousands of employees like that and try to blame the Holy Spirit?!

It’s been a year.

I pray we get still before Our Pappa God and hear what He is calling us to.  I pray we find a way to be kind to one another, to love one another as He would have us do.  I pray we come out of this so much more faithful, loving and relaxed than we’ve ever been.  Let’s not waste this time we’ve been given.

Grace Reins Down

How soon I forget, when shame overtakes and the spiraling begins.

Searching for Your guidance and feeling unsafe, exposed to the critical scrutiny of Your other children.

Setting my own bar too high because of my pride.

Panic.  Self-loathing.  

Crying out.  Remorse.

Getting still.  Listening.  

Going.  Confessing.

YOUR GRACE reins down through Your daughters, my sisters.

Thank you, my Faithful Pappa-God.

Thank you, faithful daughter, sisters.

It is sweet humility to be reminded that I’ve so far to go, but I am never alone on this difficult, grace-filled journey.

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Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

Living in Michigan most of my life, except for a year plus in my early twenties, and now for the past 12+ years in Austin, TX, I experienced various degrees of depression for months every year.

Even as a child, I would struggle with this from December/January until April.  I recall distracting myself with upcoming holidays, interesting books, whatever would help me to get through the hopeless grey.    My father had a similar affliction and there was so little sunlight, that it just seemed normal.  Because of the dynamics of my family of origin, I taught myself to hang on until spring, and in the meantime, I spent a lot of time not sleeping from insomnia, and writing in my journals to attempt to keep my emotions from boiling over because the sadness was so overwhelming and there wasn’t really anyone to talk to.

In my twenties I married (twice), gave birth to 4 children and continued to struggle with depression.  My father gifted me his old sun lamp when they bought a winter home in Florida and it helped some, but by then my depression was starting in October and lasting until late spring and then some, because of the brokenness in my family of origin and because I was not allowed to express any anger or strongly negative emotion in my marriage.  I spent several years pulling myself up by my bootstraps, beating myself up because I had such a beautiful family, home, friends, church, etc.  There was so much shame in feeling so sad when so many others had much more to deal with than I appeared to.  Finally, in 2004, I believe, I went in for an annual physical and when my doctor began asking me questions, my veneer began to crack.  I began apologizing for crying, for being so weak, for being so sad when I had no right to and she told me that she had time to listen so that we could figure out how to make this better.  I walked out of her office with red, puffy eyes, salve on my wounded heart and a prescription for Cymbalta.

It took me a few months to fill the prescription that she gave me in January… I think I filled it in May.  I felt like a loser because I couldn’t overcome my sadness with Jesus or by being grateful for all of my blessings.  Some friends told me that they thought it was sad that we live in a culture that medicates everything else, but mental health has such a stigma.  So, I filled the script and began taking it.  My sadness began to melt away, and then I noticed my other emotions were on the down-low, also.  I wasn’t feeling much of anything.  I’m a pretty emotional girl – ask my family of origin, who reminded me on the regular that I was “always too emotional” – so, the fact that I was almost null and void of any emotions was kind of weird and a little scary.

After about six months, I knew I didn’t want to spend my life not feeling any deep emotions, so I stopped taking the Cymbalta.  The depression was terrible the following three years while we lived in Michigan and the first year we lived in Texas was only a bit better.

Then my husband’s betrayal happened and the emotional rollercoaster made the depression of the past feel like a walk in the park.  For the first time in my life, I was suicidal.  I was desperate to end the pain I was living in.  I had gone to counselors in the past to try to deal with the depression, but this time we were going to try and save our marriage.  My husband was ready to be honest and humble in a way he never had before.  We talked about his bullying my angry and sad feelings away and how that affected my emotional health.  We discussed how I tend to believe that my worth is based on what I can do for others and not who I am as a person (pre-awareness of my enneagram 2 identity).  There had been a lot of gaslighting in our marriage and being told the truth brought a lot of emotions, from anger to relief and then freedom and finally I felt a new confidence in who I was and where my worth lies.

I have not struggled with depression in 12 years.  It has been GLORIOUS!

I’ve had sad days.  I’ve had really sad days.  But, depression is a whole different animal!  It falls over you like a shroud of grey hopelessness.

It fell over me a few weeks ago full of grey hopelessness.  I’m incredibly sad for what seems like no reason at all.  I tried to run from it when I first let myself, just for a nano-second, consider that this was happening, again.  Outwardly, I put on a happy face and stayed home as much as possible.  Inwardly, I’ve been shaming myself for feeling sad when I have SO much to feel blessed about.

And I do have SO much to feel blessed about.  But, it’s been a year… we lost our sweet Rocket puppy of 16 years in October.  I found out I have a grandson (unexpectedly) and we care for him two days a week, every week.  One of our children got engaged and then they weren’t.  My stepson and his children went through a divorce.  This fall will mark 5 years of my oldest son refusing to be in relationship with me.  My parents’ health is worsening and they have no desire to have me in their lives.  My younger (adult) children have gone through so much this year and continue to struggle with various things and I can’t make it all better like I used to.

So, last week I was on my fourth night of almost no sleep because when I am in the midst of depression I am exhausted, while simultaneously unable to sleep.  It’s torture, I tell you!  I decided that I had to do something different because smiling on the outside while shaming on the inside was NOT working.  So, I summoned all of my courage, typed up a message on my phone asking for prayer in my struggle and hit send through big, ugly tears.  I sent it to my life group friends and the following day I shared where I was at with my group that meets at my house on Monday evenings.

I have felt their prayers.  I have had truly lovely moments of reprieve in the middle of some dark days this week. 

Today was a tough day.  My husband wants me to explain to him why this is happening so that he can fix it.  He wants me to go out with him and stay busy because he thinks this is helpful and he loves me, so it’s hard to watch me be so sad and not be able to make it all better.  I told him that I don’t have the energy to figure out the why.  I don’t have the energy or drive to shower, get dressed, etc. to go out in public where I don’t have the energy to be around people.  I have nothing left in this season. I explained to him that as much as he wants to fix it and make life happy, again, I think the more important thing is to trust that this is something I have to walk through.  I’m not praying for My Pappa to take this away as much as I’m asking Him to show me what I need to deal with and how.  I am definitely praying that He protects me from the enemy’s attack because I know he likes to kick us when we’re down, but there’s something here that My Pappa wants me to grow through and I want to go where He leads me, even through this darkness that feels hopeless.  I know that He is walking right next to me and I have seen what is on the other side of the hard stuff.

I’m not saying that I’m not unbelievably discouraged that this is happening to me after 12 years of emotional health and growth, because I am.  I’m acknowledging all of the awful junk.  I’m also remembering all of the hard work I’ve done through the 12 steps, counseling, inner-healing prayer, enneagram, strengths finders, etc. and I have a HUGE toolbox FULL of things that I can use to get through this with my heart, hands and eyes wide open.  In this moment of reprieve I have hope that My Pappa is walking me through this valley and bringing me to a new place of confidence in Him and who I am in Him.

This song gives me such comfort.  It’s lovely when I’m wading in the deep hopelessness and reminds me that My Pappa is unrelenting in the best way, always.

If you are struggling with depression, I pray you reach out to someone or ones that you can count on to lift you up to Our Pappa.  Lean into Him and ask Him to protect you and show you the truth of who you are in Him.  Ask Him to release you from any shame you are feeling from this depression.  You are His Beloved.  He will fight for you and show you what He wants you to learn during this time.  There is HOPE because He is HOPE.

Moving Past the Shame to You & Your CVs

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I have been searching for a lllllooooonnnnnggggg time for a truly accurate test that determines individual core values.  In my research, I’ve found mostly long lists of phrases or single words (“honesty”, “team building”) that instruct the user to choose the top 10 or whatever, then eliminate the 5 you can live without and then choose the top 2-3 of those that are left.  This works in a perfect world where everyone is painfully humble, confident and honest about themselves.  

Don’t get me wrong, I think these lists are helpful if you are in need of words to describe or remind you of what you live by.  I think this is a great start, but I’m not sure of the accuracy.  I feel like you have to come already pretty self-aware in order for this to work consistently.

For instance, now that I am 50-something, I can clearly see that loyalty is a core value of mine.  I can look over my life and see some big and small events that involved loyalty or a lack thereof, and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that loyalty is at the top of my core values list.

However, as I recently took a new core values elimination “test” that I immediately liked better than many others I had encountered, I overlooked one of the choices.  The reasons for doing that are lengthy and discouraging, but I don’t think this is the only incident of this happening to someone using an elimination list type core values test.  

The people in my life who know me intimately and well, would tell you that one of my top core values is health.  I make my own kombucha, water kefir, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.  I research any ailment that a person I care for is struggling with and find any and all natural, organic aid there is.  It is truly painful for me to watch people I love reject help in the name of only trusting traditional “medicine” when it hasn’t helped them with their condition except to mask pain, etc.   (* Now, before you decide I’m being mean to doctors and nurses, know that I believe there is a place for traditional medicine, but not in the all-powerful, all-costly way that our country has come to embrace.  Also, that is not the point of this post.)

Like too many women in my age group,  I have been struggling with my weight during the past several years in spite of eating a healthier diet than ever before.  I’ve researched magnesium, hormones, diet, sleep deprivation, exercise, and many other topics, just trying to figure out why my body isn’t cooperating with me anymore.  I’ve found myself holding back when people discuss this topic because my confidence has dwindled some as my girth increases…  Truth is, I haven’t had to go to the doctor’s office in over ten years.  I am rarely (like once a decade) sick, in spite of surrounding myself with small children regularly for years and years.  My hair is healthy.  My skin looks pretty darned good.  I am reasonably active.

I could stand to lose about 30 pounds and that is why it never dawned on me that health is a core value of mine.  And, even when it did, because some dear friends mentioned it, I felt embarrassed to claim it because on some level I believed the extra fluff in my middle excluded me from being legitimately knowledgeable and/or claiming health as a core value.  I’m not the super skinny, walking around in yoga pants and a tank top kind of healthy that we see on magazines and books that advertise the latest diet or workout craze.  On paper, I am fit.  I went for a physical 3 years ago because our traditional medical insurance was about to terminate.  The doctor marveled at my vitals.  She couldn’t believe I hadn’t been to see a doctor for anything for over 10 years.  She was impressed that I only take supplements, but no prescription drugs, and actually listened when I explained that Vitamin D is NOT a vitamin, but a hormone that we should NOT take in supplemental form.  When I asked her what she suggested I do for my unexplained weight gain, she replied that this was a normal part of aging for most women and that I wasn’t terribly overweight.  She reluctantly offered some kind of weight loss pill, but knew I wouldn’t accept it.  The thing is, I know that I’m healthy by health standards, but the cultural view on what healthy looks like, almost caused me to miss acknowledging an important part of my self.  

I’m gearing up for a women’s workshop this fall.  I’m working with a truly amazing group of women to introduce several important awareness tools to other women in order to help them become more fully who Our Pappa calls them to be.  We believe Core Values are a vital piece of this puzzle, but we’re still grappling with how to help women see themselves truly and clearly in order to recognize their own core values.

So, here are my questions for you:

How do you think we can best help women to see themselves and recognize their core values?  How do we get the shame, the need to impress, the junk out of the way?

What is your shame thing?  What stands in the way of you embracing who you are?

If you’ve taken any Core Values tests, would you recommend one?

What are your core values and how do you experience them?

 

Tita

I recently became a Nana for the first time.  My older, precious twin, Caleb, became a daddy in a less-than-traditional, but not terribly uncommon manner.  During the end of the pregnancy, before we knew with any certainty that He was related to us, we all experienced a gamut of emotions that were extremely difficult and exhausting.    

He was born a month early, under slightly scary circumstances.  (Did I mention that mama went into labor a full month early, on Caleb’s birthday?!)  Caleb decided that he wanted to be in the delivery room to support the baby’s mama and to witness his child’s birth with no regrets.  I remember when he asked me what he should do, I asked him if the baby turned out not to be his, could he recover emotionally.  He assured me he was fine. My mama’s heart wanted to help him make the right decision without emotions clouding things up, but that was just simply impossible.  Caleb was there when Charles was born and he even cut his son’s umbilical cord.  A few days after the birth, my son was informed that the paternity test would not be done until little Charles was six weeks old and the results typically take about six additional weeks to return.  This would mean that the baby would be around 3 months old before anyone would know who his daddy was.  The news was almost unbelievable to our family!  Waiting that long was not beneficial for anyone.

I’ve learned SO MUCH since this all began.  I found out that you can order a profesh paternity test online for about $120 or less and have the very reliable results in about 48 hours from the time the company receives it.  I learned that no matter how hard you try to stay neutral, when you are a 2 Mama and Nana, you are ALL IN as soon as you know that baby is your baby’s, in spite of your wise children doing their best to prevent your possible heartbreak.  I know the wonder of having another woman birth a clone of your baby.  I finally understand all the hype about how awesome it is to have grandchildren because you have all the fun with very little of the tedious day-to-day responsibilities.

Arlo looks SO much like his daddy – and quite a bit like his Auntie Hannah, as well.  Also, Arlo’s parents look like they could be related, so there’s that…  He was in the NICU for just over 2 weeks.  He was released from there the morning after we got the results that confirmed Caleb is his daddy…  interesting.  He and his mama then spent several days in the “Nesting” area of the hospital before they allowed them to go home, and she graciously welcomed this Nana and Papa for daily visits.  

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We received the paternity test results the day after Valentine’s.  Caleb came over so he and I could process together.  I prayed silently as he experienced the HUGENESS of the situation in every way imaginable.  He mourned the end of his carefree life.  He expressed deep shame and regret.  He questioned whether he could rise to this occasion.  He lashed out in anger.  He shut down.  He began to accept the responsibility of it all, and then, bit by bit, he gave in to the cresting dam of love he had been struggling to hold back in order to protect his heart, in case he wasn’t Arlo’s daddy.  At first it was just a little trickle of the acknowledgement of the wonder of it all, leaking out in the most beautiful and fragile way. I watched this grow into the new joy of fatherhood and all the possibilities that lie ahead.  I am humbled that I bore witness to this sacred moment in my son’s life.  I count it as one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Once he was on level ground, again, he showered and we headed up to the hospital to meet his son (my grandson!!!!).  This is when I got to witness another absolutely lovely and horrible moment in my son’s journey to fatherhood.  He walked in, worked his way around all of the cords and medical “stuff” so that he could pick up his baby and inform him that he was his father.  When about 20 minutes passed and it was time to change his diaper, Caleb told us that it was time for him to learn to do everything.  It was excruciating and glorious watching him almost drop Arlo while diligently and lovingly changing his little preemie diaper with three women looking on.  I could feel my son humbly saying with his heart, “I’m all in.  I’m your daddy.  I love you and I will do everything I can to make you feel loved and to make your life better.”  

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In the past almost 4 months I have watched my baby mature exponentially.  As soon as Arlo’s sweet mama had to return to her job, Caleb changed his schedule at work so that he could be with his son Monday through Wednesday each week.  He works double shifts Thursday – Saturday in order to do this.  He can change a diaper, swaddle and burp a little one with the best of them!  He can tell you, with amazing accuracy, what Arlo is crying about within seconds.  When they come over for dinner on Monday evenings, we all vie to hold him, feed him and diaper him to give Caleb support for our own selfish reasons, and I am always so proud of him for making it clear to everyone that he is the one responsible for his son’s care.  He doesn’t show up and step back while everyone takes care of Arlo.  He’s the kind of daddy I have prayed my sons would be.  I am proud of the way he has lovingly stepped up and fully embraced the responsibility of fatherhood in spite of the extra challenges it has brought into his life.  

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Lastly, I am thankful that he repeatedly forgives us for being so excited every time he  walks through the door with Arlo and we gush all over our sweet grandboy and treat him like an afterthought… 

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Honestly!!!  Can you blame us?!  Just look at that precious little face… 🧡

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Bearing

I am tired

In my flesh

Triggered

Abandoned

Broken-hearted

I am resentful

Unable to be perfect

Unable to arrive

Human

I am not willing to justify my actions to those who have yet to live anything near the last 35 years of my life

I am sad for the loss of what it “should” have been, but never will be

For the realization that this is forever and will never be “normal” or easy

Rejoicing in the tiny perfection, the heavenly smell, the precious sounds

The overwhelming, all-encompassing love

The witnessing of care-taking and manliness in the grown clone of this new blessing

The beauty of godly men stepping forward with grace and encouragement, bearing witness to Our Pappa’s power over shame.

Redemption

In His will

In His love

Thankful that He is in the waiting with me while my heart is breaking, reminding me to release the doing, the reaching, the striving

Reminding me to be who He made me to be, extending grace to others

Extending grace to me

But, first, I mourn, because I am weary and I am a woman

I am His

 

 

2, Fix You

I am learning the sweetest lesson that I would almost swear is changing my body chemistry and slowing down the aging process.  I am simultaneously trying not to regret spending so many years not living in this truth.

So much of my struggle comes simply from being a mama, but it seems to be compounded by my 2-ness.  I have always loved to help my husband and our children “figure out” how best to navigate all kinds of difficult situations.  If any one of them is in the midst of a mini crisis, there is nothing this 2-mama loves more than being needed, and if the tangle is between any 2 or more of them, well then I’ve always felt it is my responsibility to get right in the middle and help them to understand the other person’s viewpoint so that peace and love would once again be restored in our family.

ick.

Right?!

Recently, as we have been walking through this trying season in our family, I am seeing so clearly that satan wants division and isolation among us.  In the past, this would’ve panicked me and I would be in full-on mama-2-fixit mode.  I’d convince myself because of other broken relationship history that any conflict between my children could be permanent.  I’d be on high-alert for any harsh word or action, lest left unaddressed, would sever the ties that bind us so that reconciliation was impossible. I’d force myself, my husband and our children into conversations that none of us was anywhere ready to have, thus resulting in deeper wounding all the way around.

Often I would listen to one of my lovie’s  emotional assessments of a situation, all the while getting amped up about the other lovie who was clearly in the wrong!  Then I’d confront this “other” only to find out that I was only getting one side of the story, and in the name of reconciliation, I had jumped the gun, crossing several boundaries and hurting everyone in the process.

Holy Spirit has been unconditionally patient with my insanity.  He has gently and consistently grown me in this area.  Initially, my first milestone, which was more work than I care to admit, was curbing my yelling (screaming) at my immediate family.   This is embarrassing, but the truth is, I lost my temper and turned into an insane banshee with my babies on a somewhat regular basis for more years than I care to admit right now.  This would happen for important and worthy reasons such as forgetting their schoolwork at home, not emptying the dishwasher when I asked them to, and their all time favorite:  when they would leave someone out, especially one another.  The amazing thing is that I can’t even remember the last time I went full-on banshee on anyone.  So, that’s a win.

My next goal was staying out of my grown children’s disagreements with each other and with their dad.  This was SO, SO HARD for me!!!  The interesting thing was that they asked me to do this and we all decided to make it a family rule, but when they would argue, someone would inevitably look at me and say, “Aren’t you going to say something?!  Why are you letting him/her say that without saying anything?!”  I also discovered that my children had become champion busybodies, thanks to my example, and staying out of arguments that didn’t involve them became a family goal.  So, that objective was not obtained as smoothly, but I’m grateful and proud to say that when 2 of us are having a spat and all of us are together, the other 3 stay quiet and refrain from taking sides 95% of the time. 

My latest ambition has been to stop being the fix-it girl. When my children share a challenging situation they’re dealing with, my mind is racing to think of the best solution for them.  Half the time, I’m not truly listening to what they are communicating, because I’m so busy trying to make it all better and be the hero! (insert another “ick”)

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I’m learning I should not attempt to solve the struggles in other people’s, especially my children’s, lives.  It is perfectly acceptable, nay, preferable to stay silent, truly listen and simply ask what they need from me.  I’ve found that in actively staying focused on what is being said to me, I can more easily wade through the emotion and opinions that feel like facts to him/her.  I don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions as much as I used to and that’s a double win, imo, because people don’t get hurt by possible untruths and satan can’t use this against me like he has so much of my life.

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All 5 of us are NFP’s on the Myers-Briggs, so there is no shortage of the feels in our family.  Learning to keep our emotions in check has been such a blessing.  We still have tiffs and we are not terribly calm or logical when things get heated, but we stay in our lanes most all of the time now, we listen to each other in a way we never did before and the banshee is gone.  I’d say we’re winning.

board center chalk chalkboard

Organic Coconut Yogurt – Instant Pot Style

If you want naturally sweet, dairy-free, sugar-free (except for the maple syrup to feed fermentation), organic, super healthy yogurt, I’ve got an amazing recipe for you!  I’ve made this a few times now, choosing bits and pieces from other people’s recipes and suggestions, and found that this is the perfect one for me and my family.  There are only 5 ingredients (RED) and you don’t have to use the gelatin or the probiotics, if you don’t want to.  I tried to highlight (BLUE) the most important details to make this less confusing.  I was a nervous wreck the first time I made this, so I’m hoping this will be easier for you to follow and feel less intimidated than I did.  It’s very difficult to mess this up, so give it a shot!  It’s so quick and easy to prepare.  The long part is waiting for your instant pot (IP) to finish the work for you!  You can do this with a crock pot/slow cooker, a heating pad, with the light in your oven, or any way that you can keep your yogurt at a pretty consistent 100-110 degrees for 8-36 hours so that it can ferment, after you cook it on the stove top to 185 degrees to begin with.  The IP just makes the whole process much simpler:  all of the mess in one pot and no checking the temp or doing much of anything but wait once you set the time and temperature.

You’ll Need:

5 cans of Organic Coconut Milk (FULL FAT, NOT Low!) – I refrigerate (3-4 hours) or freeze (1 hour) 2 cans and drain the coconut water into a jar (to use later for anything I want, smoothies, etc.) and only use the cream from those 2 cans.   I shake the other 3 cans to combine the water and cream and use the entire contents of the 3 cans as they are.  This is important because it helps your yogurt be as smooth and creamy as possible.  

1/4 cup of Maple Syrup (pure, NO additives, and organic, if possible) – If I’m fermenting the yogurt for less than 12 hours, I don’t use the maple syrup because coconut milk has plenty of natural sugar in it and I want as little sugar in my yogurt so that my family gets only good stuff from it.  Fermentation eats the sugars so that the end product has very little to NO sugar in it.  Also, DO NOT substitute honey.  It’s bacteria will fight against the good bacteria in the yogurt and ruin your product.

*Last week I warmed/fermented our yogurt for 29 hours and it was TANGY!  With some berries and grain-free granola I can enjoy this without any sweetener, but I added 1/2 a teaspoon of stevia to my Honey’s to take the edge off.  He doesn’t love tangy like I do!

 Pour only the coconut milk and maple syrup into the IP and whisk until it is smooth.  Then hit “yogurt” until it goes to “boil,” which will heat it to about 185 degrees.  This cycle takes about 15 minutes and you do not need to cover your IP.  Try to whisk once or twice during this cycle.  When you hear the BEEP indicating that the boil cycle is over, immediately whisk in

2-3 teaspoons of UNFLAVORED GRASSFED BEEF GELATIN or 1-2 teaspoons of AGAR AGAR (I’ve never used agar agar, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, this is a great option!)

Be sure to mix this in very well, or you will end up with lumps instead of thickened yogurt.  Also, most recipes I’ve found suggest adding the gelatin after the yogurt cools to 110 degrees (see below), but in my experience the gelatin works better if you add it when the mixture is at a higher temperature.

Let the mixture cool for about an hour with the cover on top, but not locked.  Your IP will slowly lower the temp to about 110 degrees.  (I use a candy thermometer)  When it reaches this temp, take out a scoop (about 1/4 cup or so) and put it in a small bowl.  Then slowly stir in 

3-4 oz. of plain yogurt (you can use coconut, dairy milk, almond, hemp, any kind works).  Once you make your first batch, always keep out 3-4 oz. before you add anything, and you’ll always have a starter for each next batch.  I just put 4 oz. in one of these glass jars:

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When the two are mixed well, pour the combination back into the IP mixture and whisk until completely blended.

The final ingredient I add is:

2-3 probiotic capsules (opened and poured out, DO NOT throw the capsule in there whole!)  It’s important that you use probiotics that are not expired.

I whisk my concoction one last time and then set the timer to 24 hours or more, typically, but you can choose to set it for 8 hours (less will not ferment enough to be yogurt) or as high as 36 hours.  I may stir it once or twice during this time, but more often I just let it be.

When this cycle is finished, don’t expect it to be much thicker than when you started.  The gelatin works by heating and then cooling as does the yogurt itself.  So, it will take time to thicken as it cools and sets.  I whisk it and immediately put it in a 64 oz. glass jar, like this:

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Or 2-32 oz. jars work just as well!

**Don’t forget to put 3-4 ounces in a small glass jar for your next batch!

Now, here’s the trick…  Let it set up in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours if you want thick, rich, creamy yogurt.  If that’s not so important to you, then enjoy your yogurt after 2 or more hours in the fridge. 

Once you get the hang of this, I guarantee you will not want to eat any other yogurt!  You know exactly what is in this!  There is SO much good fat in coconut milk.  You can make yogurt with cow’s milk, as well, but we love that this recipe is completely dairy-free!  Making your own is MUCH cheaper than buying it made at the grocery store.  Last week I bought a 5 oz. container of coconut milk yogurt that is made with organic coconuts, but not completely organic.  The second ingredient was cane sugar, which I prefer not to consume and there were a few other things I wasn’t wild about, although it was pretty yummy!  It cost me $1.59!  If I multiplied that by 12.5 – a little less than how many containers my recipe makes – that would cost just under $20.00 for store bought with ingredients I can’t control.  My ingredients cost me about $12-13.00 per batch and I know exactly what I’m feeding my family!  When it’s time to enjoy this creamy yumminess, we typically add fresh fruit and grain-free granola, but you can add a fruit compote, chocolate shavings, nuts or a few drops of pure vanilla.  When it’s too tart, I just sprinkle a little stevia or monk fruit on it and stir, but any sweetener you enjoy will work.  Please leave questions or comments below.  I would love to hear about your experience with making yogurt!

Image may contain: fruit, dessert and food

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