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?
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.
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.”
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.
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…
Honestly!!! Can you blame us?! Just look at that precious little face… 🧡
I am tired
In my flesh
I am resentful
Unable to be perfect
Unable to arrive
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.
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
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.
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”)
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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!
In the midst of tribulation I am finding such joy in the smaller things that sum up my now. I am beyond grateful for moments like this when I can contemplate what is good and how My Pappa has always and continues still to work through every season for good in my life. Writing has always helped me to center by focusing on Him and becoming still and quiet in order to hear His voice over the noise of my racing mind that naturally falls prey to pulling myself up by the bootstraps and plunging ahead in my own “power.”
Today I met with friends, sisters, who see me and choose to trust me, hold space for me, truly love me and encourage me. I’ve spent most of my life without this kind of agape love and I do not take this gift from My Pappa for granted.
Yesterday I worked with a family that I simply adore. They invite me into their lives with such intimacy, sincerity and appreciation. It is a gift to love and be loved by them.
Today I received the wall hanging for my office that I’ve been waiting for. The office that I have longed for and is now becoming a reality. I am sitting at my desk, looking out the window at various tree limbs against the cloud-filled sky. Having a space where I can ponder, pray, write and contemplate, filled with things that remind me of joy is a dream come true. Having my husband and my Caleb help me put the room together has made me giddy, at times.
I am learning and relearning so much during this time. I am repeatedly reminded to lean into My Pappa. I am also reminded again, and again to trust that what I’ve instilled in my children will not lie dormant, but that they are amazing ADULT human beings who love and serve Our Pappa. They will flounder and fall, but unlike 20-something-year-old me, they have relationship with a God that loves them without condition and earthly parents who have a relationship with that same Pappa God.
As James told us:
So, I will keep remembering to consider this season a gift. I daily remind myself to be confident that Our Pappa is growing our faith, maturing and developing us more and more into who He made us to be, all the while being aware of how very loved and blessed we are and always have been.
This is a great way to remember who He is:
Oh, Pappa, this has been a day. One where I had expectations of savored memories in these last precious days before things begin to change in big and permanent ways, only to have nothing turn out as I imagined. First world probs, I know, but today, to me, it matters.
I am most grateful that through all of the junk that comes at me and my precious family, we can keep pointing each other back to You. I am always thankful, but especially in the waiting, that You are My Pappa, that You are Their Pappa and we can all rest in knowing You’ve got this and Your plan is ALWAYS so much better than ours.
So, please help me to put away my disappointment and release my injuries and self-recrimination to Your ever ready and grace-extending hands. Thank You, Pappa, that even though my problems may be small in the big picture, because they matter to me, they matter to You.
This morning I awoke earlier than usual, which was okay because my Honey is feeling extra yucky and is playing guitar with our son, Aaron, this morning at our Central campus (church) at 7:00 a.m., so I was able to make him a nice cup of chai with coconut milk and a few drops of cinnamon oil. I’m especially thankful for insulated cups on chilly days like this, knowing it will stay warm for him and he can sip it throughout the morning.
After he was on his way, I began making the sausage and scrambled eggs for our South campus (church) band and production teams to go along with the crockpot oatmeal my Hannah started the night before. I delivered that and then headed home, fully committed to showering and attending a service at each campus in order to support everyone in my family.
It began to rain harder and the temps dropped about 15 degrees as I was drinking my own cup of chai, curled up in my new-to-me comfy chair, listening to a recently discovered podcast. I began to think about some of the relationship difficulties I’ve experienced recently and what/who I am thankful for and then I decided to stay home and spend some time with My Pappa and write. I am fully embracing the freedom in this, only struggling a smidge with the guilt of not supporting my family and playing hooky from church for no really “good” reason.
A few years ago I would’ve beat myself up for not setting a better example for my kids – and then I would’ve gone to church full of resentment, or I would’ve told my family what I was thinking about doing and someone or two would’ve tried to shame me or used it as an excuse to do the same. I know it sounds silly to say we’ve grown because now I can play hooky from church without the guilt I used to experience, but I am thankful for the growth my family has experienced in this way and for the lessened guilt that comes with that growth.
I’m thankful for a husband and children who work at seeing me, just as I am, with flaws, scars, ugliness and sin, through the eyes of Our Pappa. I’m more than grateful for the grace I’ve experienced as I’ve stepped out of my Stepford wife persona and revealed that I am more Eve than I allowed anyone to see for the greater portion of my adult life.
In recent years I have experienced great loss in my life, some of the people who have chosen to walk away are the ones who have given me life, known me all of my life or all of theirs. While I’ve developed a certain peace about this as I’ve turned it over to Pappa, again and again, I still have a day or two every once in a while when I give into the grief of my relationship casualties. I’ve never doubted, during these times, that Our Pappa is holding each of us and working everything out according to His will, so my sorrow isn’t a result of doubt or hopelessness, it is simply a lament of love and time lost.
There are times when it will sneak up on me and I don’t even realize where the melancholy comes from. When I first feel the tug of this, I usually shove it down and try to carry on, telling myself I am fine and I don’t have a good enough reason for this drama. That is when my Hannah almost always will ask me, “What’s wrong, Mama?” At first my mind will spit out, “Nothing. I’m okay.” Almost immediately after telling that lie, I will burst into tears and say, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t have any good reason. I am just so very sad.”
And the glorious beauty of my only daughter’s response is that, at no point, does she try to make it all better by minimizing my right to be sad, nor does she attempt to shame me by telling me how blessed I am and therefore not entitled to feel grief. She almost always says, “Well, that’s okay, Mama. Sometimes we just feel sad. No emotion is bad, Jesus gave all of them to us.” And then she’ll ask me what I need – offering to hold me or make me a cup of tea.
Can I explain to you what a truly lovely gift this is to my wounded little girl who grew up in a family of “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “Stop being so dramatic/emotional?” (*There is no judgement here, I fully understand my parents believed they were preparing me as best they could for the world). We live in a culture of positivity and pushing through. I think we are afraid if we let someone grieve too deeply, they may never come out of it. A lot of us spend those precious, rare moments when our grieving loved one is expressing their anguish, thinking of the most profound thing to say that will end their suffering and help them to move on – and make us feel a little bit heroic, as well as a lot more comfortable. Who in the world told us that this was loving?! Why is it so difficult to just listen with empathy and sit in pain with the person who just handed us their hearts with such beautiful vulnerability and trust?
I think this is our culture. I grew up seeing 30 minute shows that ended happily and miraculously resolved with someone wisely speaking into another’s situation and then everything was fixed perfectly, cue the upbeat theme song and roll credits. I don’t recall EVER watching a television show in which one character listened to another’s woes and then simply said, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this. What do you need from me in this moment?”
When I am given permission to sit in my agony, I find myself able to invite My Pappa in to my pain, move past my reactions, into my true emotions and finally I am able to face where the original trigger came from. This almost always results in an epiphanal moment that helps me to see why I over-reacted to a more recent event or why I was feeling such intense emotions internally that overwhelmed me or spoke extreme negativity into my heart. This is growth and it comes by way of pain and struggle. While, in the moment, it feels like a lot of work, discomfort and inconvenience, the rewards are healing, clarity and progression toward who He always meant for us to be.
I spent decades of my life being told, by myself and others, to push through, to stop feeling sorry for myself, to get over it. So, I tried, with everything I had I tried to follow this advice because I thought that’s what grown-ups did and I believed I was extra flawed and self-centered for sitting in the pain of offenses or expressing strong emotions. I did it all with a smile on my face, because that what I was taught a good woman does. And then I began to notice that too many of the women in the generation before me were miserable, and afflicted with illnesses that I believe were a result of all of the stuffing of emotions they had done most or all of their lives. They were largely unknown, even by their husbands, children and siblings. I began to realize I was blindly walking the same path with my children, my husband and my family of origin. All the while, my life was imploding. I was imploding. You can’t stuff sadness, anger and frustration for decades with a smile on your face and believe that it won’t find an outlet. There’s only so much room in there, after all. It festers inside and turns into cancer. It finds a crack in your smile to escape, seeping out as fierce contempt. It discovers a bitter hole in your integrity which justifies your manipulation of loved ones, which results in a loss of trust and more distance from the people you love and need most in the world. It is much more work, a constant discomfort and inconvenient in the worst of ways, but still, this is the path I chose to stay on for much of my life, believing it to be the more noble. This newer path began as much more work, and brought untold loss, but the freedom and reward in walking more in the identity My Pappa has for me far surpasses the struggles along the way. Continuing on the same path would’ve kept me in “relationship” with many who I’ve lost along the way, but those were relationships that had little or no depth and certainly no grace. I was not known, nor was I allowed to know them. The relationships I have been left with are more precious to me than I can put into words. They are deep and hard. They are lovely and challenging. They are safe and encouraging. They are, each one, a gift to me in my sojourn here.
In this coming year, I want to be a gift to others and their journeys. I want to listen without trying to fix. I want to lovingly hold space for others, without pushing for resolution. I want to try to focus on what is true before jumping to conclusions and choosing a reaction I will most assuredly regret. And while I strive to make these things a part of who I am becoming, I want to extend grace to myself, knowing I will stumble and trip along the way because growth is worthy, hard work, but the freedom and health that comes as a result of the struggle is SO much better than the alternative. I can’t live there anymore.
Christmas is so different now for my family and me than it was just a bit ago. The first year we moved here from Michigan and we saw plastic, light-up snowmen on balmy green lawns, it was somewhat disconcerting. It felt weird to drive to the mall to do our holiday shopping on dry streets and in short sleeves.
Now this is our normal and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I LOVE living in Austin more than I can say. The blow-up snowmen and snow globes look perfectly lovely and I don’t think twice about the owner probably having no idea what it is to build snowmen on the regular.
I’ve lost a lot since moving here. I only have contact with one of my brothers regularly. My parents and my other three siblings haven’t spoken to me in years. My oldest son rarely reaches out more than to text an obligatory holiday wish a couple of times a year. My marriage has run a triathlon or two and only slightly resembles what it used to be. We sold our beautiful house after 10 years – 9 of which I felt imprisoned in it.
After spending far too many years in a toxic little city where my world was nearly destroyed, I am finally in a place that feels more like home than any other has. It is smaller, older and a rental, but it is exactly where I want to be.
When I look back on our Christmases past, especially when our kiddos were little, I remember how hard I worked to create traditions that would make our children feel special, a part of, loved and while I’m not sorry for any of it, I’m over it. We’ve kept the ones that matter to us and we often reminisce about the matching Christmas outfits or pajamas, the huge, formal tree in our living room & the small colorful tree in the den, the trips to Bronner’s for a new ornament each year, the crazy family Christmas pictures & letters (please!), or the debt we went into trying to “buy” a merry Christmas. We still go to Christmas Eve service and then gather to eat obnoxious amounts of snacks (shrimp, baked goods, an amazing charcuterie board and more) while opening our gifts. While we are all perfectly okay with others joining us on Christmas Day, the night before is ours, alone, and we protect it fiercely. Aaron insists I still make red & green breakfast on Christmas morning after they get their stockings, always with apples, oranges and pears and more. Hannah makes sure we watch A Christmas Story while lazing around together after breakfast and we always have a really nice, usually beef tenderloin, for dinner.
Parts of this will change soon. Marriages will happen, grandchildren will be born and we will adjust. They will make new traditions for their new families and we will make new ones with our new members. This is how it is supposed to be.
I am excited for my children as they become independent, finding their places in the world – and much sooner than I did, thank you, Pappa! My job has been to teach them not to need me, succeeding at that is a smidge hard to accept. I am adjusting to less time, less attention, less need of me and while I am rejoicing, I am searching for my new identity, searching for my purpose. I’ve been mostly a mama and wife since I was 22 years old, more years than not. And I was, for the most part, pretty good at both of those things. But, if I’m honest, I sacrificed a lot of “me” to serve my family, as most mamas do, and I’m ready to take care of me and rediscover who I am, really, this time.
As Erma Bombeck said, “When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”
I’ve a feeling that most people reading this will think it makes no sense at all:
“Is she brokenhearted that her children are growing up and away or is she thrilled to be done taking care of so many others all of the time?”
Mamas with empty nests will understand.
I’m not sure I understand, yet, but I’m working on it and I’m sure I’m right where I’m supposed to be while I figure it out.
“When I thought I’d lost me,
You knew where I’d left me”