Thursday, December 28, 2017

The end of 2017, Contemplation of 2018

WARNING: This is a rambly post.  I have had many thoughts running through my head.  I am writing them down so that I might consider them better, and be able to look back at them in the future.

Well, it's been a difficult year in many way.  Joe's mom passed away earlier in the year from brain cancer, and that has been a very difficult loss.  She was such an anchor and gift to the family, and not having her with us has left us feeling adrift, with a great ache and void in our hearts. The dark cloud of that loss has loomed in our lives this past year, so much of 2017, even the good, has been saturated with a sense of that loss.  I have had bouts of sadness and grief this Christmas season, when I feel the loss most keenly for her and for my father, who also passed away 8 or 9 years ago of Leukemia.    I have also felt anxiety thinking about goals I have not met for myself.  I am ending this year weighing the same amount as when I started my health journey two years ago, and that is frustrating.  I have given my best efforts this year at fitness, and still am not really where I want to be.  And in that regard, Facebook is both a blessing and a curse.  It's really nice to see others meeting their goals, and to receive prayer and encouragement when you are down, and even get help from people who know more than you and are further along on the journey.  However, I find it difficult not to compare myself to others on health journeys of their own, and not feel inadequate or even ridiculous. I have not progressed very much with writing or art, and every year with homeschooling brings its challenges that often cause me to feel out of my depth..   I am not where I want to be in really any area of my life, and currently I feel overwhelmed contemplating where I should actually put my focus for 2018.  Should I focus on healthy eating and exercise?  Should I not worry about that so much and just focus on improving in art? Should I not do that and focus instead on actually writing a book of some kind? And how do I do any of those things and still do a good job homeschooling and parenting my kids?  What about my marriage? How much time and energy does it require?  What are the boundaries I should set for myself and with Joe to be both loving and healthy?  And over and above all of that there is my relationship with the Lord.  I confess that I am over 40, a Christian, and I am not sure if I read the entire Bible or not.  I start plans to go through it all, but usually stall about halfway through and end up not finishing.
On the other hand, maybe I have learned somethings this year.  No, I am not where I want to be.  But I believe I am better off than if I had not tried.  I am learning that "Progress is a process, not a destination."  (Someone else shared that on fb in the Run Peaker, Run! group, but now I don't remember who, or I would credit them.)  That was a timely encouragement I needed.  So maybe the scale has fluctuated, but I have had more energy this past year  and I did do some races and just getting out there is something.
I am learning it's not being a "poser" to allow someone else to know your identity as something you love but aren't good at yet.  For me to say "I am a runner" or "I am a writer" or "I am an artist" or even "I am a Charlotte Mason homeschooler"  when I struggle and feel so small and insignificant in my abilities takes courage.  What it really means is not that I have arrived at some destination, but I have atleast opened the door and begun the journey.  For some people, this is probably no issue at all.  But for me, it has been.  I felt like acknowledging that I am in these groups or even want to be opens me to a new level of scrutiny by others, and breaking free from the fear of what others think of me has been a challenge.  I am a woman who has struggled with so many insecurities, which makes the fear of rejection or humiliation feel so powerful sometimes.  It's easy to say and know that I shouldn't care so much what other people think, but it's another thing entirely to act on that belief and follow through with actions, especially when you feel as if you are standing alone.
So about 2018.  What do I actually want for 2018?  Well here's what I want, just thinking as I type:

1. I want to read my Bible all the way through.  For real  I want to be still and hear God's voice, and obey Him.  I want the advice and wisdom I give others to be more than just my "good ideas"; I want to be so in tune with the Holy Spirit that His voice speaks through mine to other people, so that the words I speak are truly life giving. 
2. I want to look in the mirror and finally be happy with what I see.  I want to learn to love the best of the person God made me to be, and yield to God to change the parts that need to change.
3.  I want to not just say I am a runner. I want to believe it and feel it.  Same for being an artist and writer. And even a teacher.  People tell me I do a good job at that, but often I doubt it's true.  I don't want to become arrogant, but I want to see all of who I am accurately, and be able to know myself well, both good and bad.  So often I have seen the bad in myself, and I don't deny that side of myself.  But I would like for 2018 to be a year where I can also see and accept the good, in myself first, but also in others. 
4.  I do want to move forward in the areas of growing as a mom, teacher, artist, writer, and runner.  I want to learn new things and be farther along by the end of the year.  I am still not sure how to judge that, but it's a desire I have to grow and have marked changes that affirm that growth.  I know that one goal I have is that I would like to be able to run an entire 5K and to interval run/walk a 10K this next year. 
5.  I want to be joyful and peaceful with my children at home.   I want my children to remember me as a joyful, loving, fun momma who loved them well, not a sad, depressed mama who was always afraid and let fear control her.
6.  I want to read lots of good books, books that are classic books, books on self care and self improvement, books that speak to my heart. 
7.  I want to invest time and energy in relationships with other women to build friendships.
8. I want to invest time and energy in relationship with my husband to build a better relationship.
9.  I want to invest time and energy in relationship with my children to disciple them and to communicate that I value and love them.
10.  I want to help my daughter plan a wedding, and it to be the most beautiful and wonderful day for her and Jacob, and to know that the memories of that day will always be special and sacred for them.
11.  I want to be more present in my day to day life. I want to put my phone away, and be engaged in what's happening around me.  When I am not, I want it to be because I have been intentional in my choice of what I am doing, and have peace that it's the right thing for that moment because it was made by choice and not by accident.
12. I want to continue to cut sugar from my diet and minimize junk food.
13. I want to build back up our emergency fund, and get to a place where we are consistently spending  less than we make.  
14. Practically speaking, we need to get our roof repaired this year.
15.  I want to take a family vacation.
17.  I want to own my feelings and behaviors as my own, and allow other people to have their feelings and behaviors, without taking responsibility for how others feel. I want to show empathy and respect for myself and others, but also accept the "separateness" of other people.  I want to own my own stuff, and apologize for my mistakes and wrongs when appropriate, but I want to not take on the burden of other people's happiness as being my responsibility.  I want to make decisions based on what's best and right and true and is what God has ordained for my family, not based on whether someone else approves or not.  The only approval I should seek is that of Christ. 
18. I want to get away privately at least once this next year with my husband.
19. I want my home to be a peaceful place. I want to own our stuff and not be owned by it.   To that end, I will endeavor to declutter our home in a way that is not traumatic for my family. I want to show my children respect in my parenting, but model to them that people and relationships matter more than things. I want to teach them to be good stewards of all that we have and own. I want them to learn to take good care of what we have, but also to recognize when to let things go that are no longer blessing us or even just could bless someone else.  I want to be thoughtful in how I even bring more things into our home, so that decluttering becomes less necessary.
20. I want to be a support to my older kids, as they grow beyond us and the structure of our family.. I want to build friendship with them and be the kind of adult who respects them as adults but also challenges them in healthy and loving ways.  I want to be a friend with them who listens more and offers advice less.
21.  I want to be active and vibrant in my local church family. I want to support missions work both financially and with prayer.  I want to be obedient and faithful to God's call to edify believers around me and to be salt and light to hurting people around me.  I want to do this with prayer, but also with my talents, time, and resources.

Maybe much of this just sounds like pretty words. My hope is that it's so much more than that.  It's the truth of what I desire, and honestly, one reason I get so discouraged this time of year because I see such little growth some years, even with doing my very best.  But I am reminding myself today that I am on a journey, and I am moving forward, though slowly. I am giving grace to myself and others.  Failure is not the end.  I can fail, and keep trying and going, and hopefully getting better.  If you are reading this, I would appreciate prayer that God gives me greater wisdom, discernment, and direction in 2018, and that I am quick to be a doer of that wisdom, that it would bless me and others. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

I have been thinking about death lately.  Happy thoughts, right? I mean, I can't imagine why my blog is not that popular, with all the awesome topics I choose to write about.  Seriously, though, that's okay with me. I don't really do this for most people.  I am thankful for being a nameless face to most people.  Mainly, when I do write, I write for my own kids someday.
Anyway, I have been contemplating death.  I suppose the reason is the recent health issues I have been having.  Nothing like health problems to bring you face to face with your own mortality, and how out of control you actually are.  I am doing my best with diet and exercise, to give God as much help as I can give him, for me to be around for a long time for the people I love.  But the truth is, all of us will die.  Every last one of us, unless the Lord Jesus comes back and we see him face to face before we die.  But for most of us, that won't be the case.  I can't say I want to die, although sometimes, I admit, it's difficult in trials to continue having the courage each day to choose to actually live, to keep going and pressing on in spite of pain or sorrow. I can say there is heaven, and the thought of seeing my loved ones and friends there, that I look forward to seeing.  The process of death, itself, is not so appealing.  And I still feel like I have so much I need to do.   But it's not my part to determine when I will die. It's my part to obey the Lord Jesus, and to try to live my life in glory to Him, day by day.
I have many things I still want to experience in this temporal life. If I had my way, I would be here to see all of my children, my grandchildren, and even my great grandchildren, serving the Lord.  I want to be faithful to my husband, and see us celebrate many years together.  The first many years of our marriage have been hard, honestly, as we are both so stubborn sometimes, and it seems that we are only finally now  learning what it truly means to walk together in life, though we are both messy sinners.  I want to travel and be involved in missions work, and still do ministry in a church with young people.
I want to write a novel. I don't know why that's so hard for me, but it is.  I have ideas in my brain, but disciplining myself to write and bring the ideas together is difficult.
I want to paint something beautiful.  I know I have painted things, but I don't see them as great things.  And  I have so much to learn still, and so much growing to do in art.
I want to get to a place with my children that they will be able to say, when they are grown, that though I was imperfect, I loved them well.  That I taught them through my life and actions what humility, and service to others, and compassion, and deep, abiding joy look like.  I want to celebrate when I come to the place that my children are grown that we can sit as friends.  I love my children, by the way.  I don't ever think I can say that enough. 
I want to be a faithful friend to my friends.  I want to be a prayer warrior and someone who will rejoice with them in their joys, and sit in the dust and love them in their sorrows. 
Today was  a tough day.  My  migraines were bad, and the anxiety I battle was at an all time high.  My children had an activity tonight, that I wasn't able to go to, because I felt so poorly.  My dear husband had to take off work again today to run our home. I struggled with feelings of worthlessness and failure, because my health prevented me from being the mom I desperately wanted to be, for my kiddos.   I was not in control. I had to depend on others, which I don't like at all. I felt weak, and helpless, and so unnecessary. It was a serious hit to my pride, honestly, that the universe went on without me, and a great comfort as well.  I suppose I am flawed and selfish like that. I want to be needed, but not indispensable.
I know all the things I WANT.  But I cannot say what God's plans for my life will be, sitting in this moment.  I can pray for many fruitful years, and commit myself to the Lord, who is wise and good, but I cannot make him grant my request.  I believe He is sovereign over all, though how that plays out in smaller ways, I am unsure.  I don't think God is the one who does evil, but He does allow it, and He takes horrible situations and redeems them.  I don't think I can grasp all of that even yet.
Like I said, I want to be around for many years. That is what I hope and pray for, and pray even more ardently so for my family, and my friends.  But  every moment is a sacred gift.  I recognize, even in this moment, how many of those sacred moments I have squandered.  And I don't want that.  I want to live every moment in light of eternity, in light of the Cross of Christ.
I want the moments that I have to be used and spent in the worship of my King, and in discipleship to others.  I want my life to be salt and light, pointing others to the truth of God's love for them, and the peace found in serving Jesus.  I never want people to walk away from me saying how great a person I was, but rather, how great a God I have served.  That they will see Him in me.  And I want this most not for strangers to see, but for my kids, my husband, and my closest friends to see.
It's difficult to look at your life and see all the imperfections and flaws, the broken places.  It's tough to look at your life and see so many ways you have not measured up as a disciple. To see where you DIDN'T love someone well, maybe an unkind word you spoke, or a time you sat idly by while someone else perpetrated hurts upon another. I can see places like that in my life, and all I can do is pray for God to be bigger than my mistakes and inadequacies.  For Him to take the broken places, and make something beautiful.
I look at other people's lives, and sometimes it seems I can see a pattern of a story God is writing in their life, which is a lovely thing.  Sometimes it's a story of redemption, or healing, or what it means for God to be a father. Sometimes it is how God is shining in someone else's life through their talents or giftings, like the gift of writing or painting or science or math.   So many lovely, beautiful stories. I have loved them all.  But when I look at my own life, it seems so plain.  It's difficult for me not to compare, and feel frustrated or like I have failed.  I have not "done" that much.  I am a mediocre artist.  I write poetry.  I love my kids.  I teach them. I have tried to be faithful in the smaller opportunities that have come my way, in teaching co op classes or praying for friends, or even just trying to learn to be a better listener.  But it's mundane stuff really.  And I often worry how I would handle true trials of faith, like standing for Christ in a time of persecution.  My hope is that I will not have to find out, but my prayer is that no matter what, I would stand firm in Christ.
These were the rambling thoughts I was having tonight.  I felt like I needed to get them out of my head.
 I will close with Psalm 6, a cry of my heart tonight:

Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
    But you, O Lord—how long?
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
    save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who will give you praise?
I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
    they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.