Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Being enough.

      Every morning, Monday thru Thursday I wake up at 5:00 am and leave the house at 5:20 to get to my 5:45 workout on time.  This workout is one of the only things that I am almost always on time for, in fact, I am usually 5 minutes early, but not today.  Today my alarm didn't go off.  Today I didn't wake up until Seth started talking to me and I realized it was 5:22.  For about 15 seconds I seriously considered going back to bed.  It was too late.  I didn't have enough time, and I wasn't feeling great.  I probably shouldn't go... But I had loosely planned to meet a friend at that class, a friend who didn't normally come in the mornings and I felt obligated to be there in case she came. Besides, I really should go, I told myself.  So, I jumped out of be, threw on my clothes and ran out the door at 5:27 as my husband handed me a hastily brewed cup of coffee.  He can be a Saint sometimes.  As I drove to Burn Bootcamp I forced myself to calm down after the frantic rush out the door.  I pulled into the parking lot a mere 3 minutes late and took a spot at the back.  My friend was not there, but that was okay.  It got me there, and that was enough.  I was just glad I wasn't super late.  For the next 45 minutes however, that's about all I was grateful for.   You see today was a partner workout day, something I usually love, but which can also be a challenge.  By now I have quite a few friends and people I am very comfortable with in this class, people whom I usually partner up with.  Being with someone I know makes me a lot less self-conscious, especially if I have to modify a lot or if I am struggling due to my asthma.  Today however, several of these people were gone and the others were paired up already.  No problem, I don't mind meeting new people.  Indeed my partner today was a very sweet, kind woman who was about 1/2 my size and twice as fast as me.  Normally having a faster partner is not a big deal because you're usually having one person do one exercise and the partner does another and after a certain number of reps, or amount of time, you switch.  Not a problem.  Today was not like that.  Today almost all the exercises relied on one another.  From doing toe to toe sit ups, to linking arms behind your heads (on the ground) and doing dragon flies (where you lift up your legs and back straight into the air.)  There were three other partner exercises to do per round, and then you would both do sprints outdoors before starting over.  The first round went okay, though I had to push myself a little to keep up with my partner it wasn't a huge issue.  Then came the sprints.  Sprinting almost always sets off my asthma and true to form, as I finished my first lap I started having difficulty breathing.  I tried to pace myself but was already so winded from pushing myself earlier it was no use.  I did half of the sprints and took a breather (using my inhaler and catching my breath) before my partner came back.  We sat down to start over with the sit ups but I can barely do them without my toes being held down (our feet were pushed together, but not held down) and after about five I stopped trying to keep pace.  After about 8 I stopped all together.  I was losing it. The thing is, as difficult as it can be to balance working out with asthma among other physical limitations,  the bigger battle is in my head.  Once I start having difficulty breathing all these insecurities come flooding in.  Feelings of not being good enough, fast enough or in shape enough.  Feelings that I don't belong and should stop trying.  These feelings, plus my workout and my asthma attacks combined have an almost paralyzing effect on me and almost always leave me in tears.  How humiliating.  Today was no exception.  As I lay there gasping for breathe (I was more worked up than having an attack at this point) my trainer came over to check in with me.   She took me aside, helped me calm down and told me not to worry about letting my partner down. Then she helped me modify the workout to fit my needs.  She is wonderful, compassionate and yet is able to help you get back in the game while still taking care of your body.  I was able to push aside my embarrassment and finish the workout with just a few modifications.   As I drove home I was trying to figure out why today was so hard, what had triggered me so much that I hadn't been able to keep hold of my emotions.  The workout was hard, but not that hard...it was my mental state that had pushed me over the edge.  As I drove I began to cry again, feelings of frustration and of never being able to measure up to my own standards flowing off me as steadily as my tears.  It's easy for one thought of inadequacy to bring up piles of others.  All sorts of lies flowing through my head.  Never pretty enough, never healthy enough, patient enough with my kids, or a good enough parent.  Never able to fully follow through with disciplines I say I'm going to do, and on and on these thoughts went.  And then I heard it.  The song I'd been listening to on Pandora broke through my thoughts and finally I could hear the words.
 "Only you satisfy, only you satisfy, only you satisfy, my soul...Oh, oh my soul, thirsts for you, you alone."    As I listened to the song and my heart filled with worship the lies left me.  I am not enough.  I will never be enough on my own. I was not meant to be.  But the one who made the stars in the sky, the earth and the seas made me. He made me in his own image and he made me to be in relationship with him.  He made me to need him.  And he made himself  enough for me, and when I am resting in him, I too am enough.  Just as I am, just as he made me, I am enough.  When I rely on him, and his strength as I am meant to do I am more than enough and measuring up to anyone else doesn't even matter.  And just as quickly as the fears and insecurities had filled my mind, they left. They left, and peace filled my soul.  This is how Jesus speaks to me.  In a million ways, through a song, a friend, or a trainer.  And when I can quiet myself enough to hear what he is saying I hear him and my doubts and fears fade away.
   I will not pretend I am the only one who struggles in areas such as these, we all do. The issues might be different, but we all have things we struggle with.  I don't think anyone really likes to talk about the things that are really hard for them, and I am no different.  I'd rather throw on a brave face and pretend it's no big deal.  Then I have days like today where I burst out crying in the middle of a workout (truly embarrassing by the way) while everyone else just keeps doing their thing.  Hard to hide that, but it is easy to pretend it didn't happen, but not really helpful.  Avoiding issues doesn't fix them or make them go away, especially when they are so deeply rooted in fear and self-worth, or lack of.  I hope that by sharing my struggles it resonates with some of you, reminding you you're not alone.  Reminding you of your true identity, that you are a child of God (whether you believe in him or not) and that you are enough.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Spring is near

It's a warm spring day and as I sit on our porch with the sun shining on my face, ignoring the sounds of nearby traffic speeding along the highway just about 20 yards away.  For the Joy I feel I might as well be on a tropical island.  There are very few things that could make today feel better.  It's amazing isn't it?  The way the sunshine change your outlook on life?  I am an Oregonian born and raised.  I love it here, and I don't hate the rain, for the most part take it in stride. In the fall I welcome it with open arms even,  but there's something about the middle of February that has me yearning for a warmer climate.  Some wonder why we Oregonians don't just move somewhere warmer, like Southern California (and some do) but to be honest, I don't want the weather to be just slightly different versions of the same thing all the time.  I love living somewhere that experiences all four seasons, in a rather mild way.  Our summers can get pretty hot, our falls cooling down with a lovely show of changing colors and our winters are right around freezing with lots of clouds and rain, and occasionally a little snow.  Then sometime in late February or March we start seeing the sun more and more and the flowers start shooting through the ground.  Just as I am starting to lose my mind with the dreariness of it all Spring comes in to save the day.  It's  simply wonderful.  This 70 degree breezy day would be nothing to me if I lived in San Diego, I wouldn't think anything of it, or might even complain of the wind if I hadn't just experienced the gloom of Winter.  I can only imagine how magnified that feeling is for people who live much colder places that have "real" winters.  It's amazing how positively sunshine seems effects everyone it touches.  You go to the store and people are smiling and greeting you happily.  People wait patiently while you cross the road and strangers wish you a good day as you pass them by on the sidewalk.  Parks overflow with families who've been waiting for months for days such as these.  Cats sun themselves on porches and dogs wag their tales as you pass.  If it didn't happen every year it would seem nothing short of miraculous. 
     God sure did know what he was doing when he created seasons, and not just the physical ones.  As much as we hate change and difficult times they really do help us to appreciate what we have and bring out hearts of gratitude as difficult seasons pass and more pleasant ones come around the bend.  They help us to grow and challenge us to persevere.  They give us opportunities for delayed gratification and spur on hope for what's to come.  It's easy to feel excited about the coming more pleasant times but also important to recognize the good that happens in us during those dormant periods, both in physical seasons as well as personal seasons of hardship.  It is necessary for the old to die away and the land to rest in winter.  We can't see new growth without this pause.  At a time when it looks as though nothing is happening, so much is going on beneath the surface.  Deep down in the dormant places of our lives change is made and new life is forged.  So if you're experiencing winter, either physically or emotionally/spiritually remember the importance of this season and put your Hope in the one who never fails us but promises that spring will come again.  And if you, like me, are exalting in this new season don't forget to be grateful for the one we're quickly leaving behind.  Contentment in all things.  If I can live a life full of gratitude, contentment and love and faith, I believe I cannot lose.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"You sure have your hands full" and other unhelful comments you can avoid

       So you're at the store standing in the checkout line and there's a woman in line with several children bouncing all around.  She glances back your way and you chuckle to yourself and then say the first thing that comes to mind, "Well you sure have your hands full!"  Wait.  I know this might seem harmless, and sometimes it is, but please don't.  I have been hearing this statement almost everytime I go to the store since I was pregnant with my second child.  Seriously.  "You're sure busy aren't you?" Is another favorite. Now, while neither of these are the worst things to say to someone, and I can certainly understand why someone might say them, I am here to ask that next time you're tempted to, please just don't.  It's not that they're extremely rude things to say, most of the time it doesn't bother me at all.  I just smile and nod.  But the thing is that though it doesn't usually bother me, it really isn't ever helpful either, and sometimes, depending on my mood and how the trip went and how my children are acting as well as the tone of voice the person uses, sometimes it can actually be rather hurtful.  Not on purpose, I know, but sometimes it makes me feel as though we (my children and I) are too much.  That my children are louder than life and that we are somehow intruding into this persons space.  Maybe we are a little, but please just get over it.  In a minute we'll be gone and you can move on with your day.  I have noticed my oldest daughter starting to look embarrassed when she hears these kind of comments. Yes, my children have good days and bad days, loud days and quieter days, and days when they are driving me absolutely nuts, but I don't ever want my children to feel as though they are too much or that it would be better if they just weren't here.  I may prefer to shop alone, but it's not usually possible and this is a public place they are absolutely allowed to be, and they should be treated that way.  If there's a tantrum going on please just ignore it or go to another line.  I know that having four kids these days can feel like a lot to some people, but it's my choice. A choice I have (clearly) already made and will not be changing.  Although you might not be saying "you have too many children" or even meaning it, it sure can feel that way, especially if I'm feeling extra vulnerable for some reason.  This happens a lot. 
       When someone smells bad I don't comment that "Laundry's really hard isn't it?" That would be rude, I wouldn't dream of doing it.  Commenting on someone's children and how busy they can be can feel just as rude. Yes it can be a struggle, yes encouragement can help, these comments aren't encouraging.
       Here's the thing, there really are things you can say or do that are just as easy as saying "you've got your hands full" that are actually helpful.  Here are things people have said to me that have been helpful and/or encouraging. I have heard most of these several times, and they are always helpful.   "I've been there, hang in there Mama, you're doing great!"  "Your children just put a smile on my face."  "What sweet children you have." (That last one was said on a good day.)  "You've got a lot of helpers there!"  "Can I help you bag your groceries?" (This happened at Winco and pretty much made my day.)  Several times people have noticed one of my children drop something and have turned to pick it up for me, this is also very helpful.  I would encourage you not to ever touch another persons child (you think this wouldn't happen, but it does.) It's usually done while trying to soothe a baby, but it's not appropriate if you don't personally know them.  You can try to calm a child by talking to them, but be aware of their response and/or body language.  If they seem concerned or upset by your attention I would encourage you to stop.  My children have been both soothed and consoled by adults talking to them as well as frightened.   It doesn't hurt to try (talking to them that is) but just be aware of their body language as well as the parent's body language.  The goal is to help, not upset them more.
     The other day after a particularly challenging trip to Safeway I had pushed the cart to the entrance and was trying to gather everyone together to leave, it was pouring rain outside and my son would not sit down in the cart. I was feeling more than a little flustered, though actually remaining outwardly quite calm. A middle aged man who had been in line behind me came up and was getting ready to go out as well, I still wasn't ready so I tried, awkwardly, to move over so he could leave.  He looked at me, smiled shyly and opened his mouth to say something (here it comes, I thought) but what he said caught me off guard.  "You're an amazing mom" he said, and then headed out.  I choked up and almost started crying.  All my insecurities and frustrations hand been momentarily shut down for just a second.  It was as if he said "Hang in there, you've got this." That's what it it felt like he was saying and I needed to hear it. I was having a rough day, and as experienced as I am at shopping with kids I was not feeling at all amazing at this moment and yet he had seen something there, in my effort to hold it together and not explode (that's all I can think of anyway) and then comment on it and in about half a second he gave me the courage to go out the door and not feel like a complete failure.  This is the impact you can have on someone, mom's with melting down children (and even with happy children) are as easy to encourage as they are to deflate - they just need a little understanding and compassion, and a little  patience with them doesn't hurt either. 
    Parent's with young children are not the only ones out there who need encouragement, we're just the easiest to spot!  Having these positive experiences has encouraged me to look out for that person in need of a little boost.  Maybe it's someone who looks a little down and I take the time to compliment their outfit, or the checker who's frazzled from a busy day and rude customers.  All it takes is a moment to turn around someone's day, in the store and out.  While it's often easy to overt your gaze or make a neutral to negative comment to someone who seems to be struggling, I would encourage you to take just a moment to A) notice these people and B) make a comment that simply let's them know you care. Or simply smile. This is huge. Sometimes it's all I need to see. 
     You never know how much those words might mean to that person.  And when you're having a hard day yourself and just can't handle anything else and you see "that" family coming towards you in the isle and you just can't face it,  rather than responding negatively I'd encourage you go to another isle and come back later! Sometimes I wish I could switch isles (or lanes) too, but I don't have that choice. You do.  You're welcome.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Letting go of bitterness

   Lately I have been thinking a lot about bitterness, and how it eats away at us.  Probably most of us have met someone we would describe as a "bitter or resentful" person and I seriously doubt that you think of them as a particularly pleasant person.  No one has goals of becoming bitter, it's not something we strive towards.  You never hear someone say, "I wish I was more patient, and strong, bitter."  Just the word brings unpleasant thoughts to mind (unless referring to beer, and even then it's matter of taste.)  The interesting thing about bitterness is that it usually starts as a hurt or wrong towards this person.  You would think that since they are the victim, not the aggressor, that they would feel justified in their "righteous anger,"that it would be a fair response to poor treatment.  Often we do feel justified in our anger and resentment, but that justification doesn't bring with it the health we seek, instead it brings just the opposite.   It brings a corruption of spirit that destroys us from the inside out.
    So, where does bitterness and resentment come from and how can we stop it?  The answer is both simple and extremely complex.  I believe that we can only get rid of bitterness by doing what we refused to do in the first place, by forgiving.  I think sometimes we feel that a person doesn't deserve forgiveness, and they probably don't, but that is not the point.  It's not really about them, it's about us and where our hearts are at.
      In Matthew 6:14-15 it says "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  
       That's pretty intense.  Harsh even, one might say.  However, I don't think that God says this just because he wants to be mean, I think we says it because when we live with unforgiveness in our lives we invite evil to live inside us and he physically cannot be around evil, it is against his nature.  If we want to be people filled with Love it it is imminent that we be free of unforgiveness. 
        Forgiveness is hard.  It can be painful because it requires us to bring up past hurts and to let them go.  I have often heard people say "If you knew what I've been through you wouldn't ask me to forgive them" but I think that speaks even more of the need to forgive.  The bigger the thing we are holding onto the more power it has over us.
      Here's the problem though.  We might know we need to forgive, we might even be willing to forgive, but we just don't know how to do it.  We all know that true forgiveness is much more than saying the words "I forgive you."  It's unlocking those hurts and digging them out by the roots.  I think we start with the words and then ask the holy spirit to change our hearts.
       What if you are still being hurt by this person?  That's a tricky situation.  I think it's important to differentiate between forgiving and trusting.  We are called to forgive everyone, but we are not called to trust everyone.  Sometimes forgiveness means that while we forgive someone we still must remove ourselves from this cancerous relationship.  It might be temporary, or it might be permanent.  I think sometimes all we can do after we have forgiven, and offered this forgiveness to them if necessary, is to pray for them.  It may seem like it would take a miracle, but God is in the practice of miracles.  He also is the King of restoration.  He loves to fix broken things and broken people and to make them whole.  And that is something worth rejoicing over. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Appreciating Progress

   I have been beyond blessed to have four wonderful children.  These children mean the world to me, and yet they have the uncanny ability to make compassionate, kind, caring me really, really mad.  The other day, for example, Stirling was dishing out his own snack during preschool.  He had four carrot sticks, three crackers and two apple slice and was reaching for more when I told him he couldn't have more apples until he ate what was already on his placemat, a rule he already knows.  He was enraged.  Then he continued for the next twenty minutes to not eat any of his snack and throw a huge tantrum while I stuck by what I had said.  In the end he somehow got over it and moved on, I was outwardly pretty cool but inside I was ticked and extremely annoyed. This was the third tantrum of the day and all while the other two children  (several others were sick that day) sat by and watched.
     Lately I have found myself growing quicker to anger than normal.  Dismayed at this self-discovery, I decided to take some time to pray about it.  For the past several months I have been studying James 1:19 "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."    The last few months?  You might ask. Didn't you just say that recently you've been struggling with anger?  Yes, yes I did.  Is it surprising that having read this verse many, many times I still have a tendency to fly off the handle?  Perhaps not.  We all know that reading a verse and knowing what we should do mean nothing  if we do not actively apply them to our lives.  Anger is a tricky one because it often comes as a reaction, we need to train our reactions to do something that is unnatural to our human nature, and that is a hard, yet not impossible, thing to do.  I believe that this is where the holy spirit comes in.  Where I live my life is such a way that I am not trying to do things on my own strength, but allowing the holy spirit to work in me, to slow me down and help me to listen.  Deep breathing helps a lot with this.  I do a lot of deep breathing these days.  So now you might ask, if you do a lot of deep breathing these days and slowing yourself down why do you say you're still struggling in this area of anger?  I'll tell you why, it's because it's a process.  We, as American's and perhaps as humans in general don't like processes.  We like instant gratification.  We don't want to be patient, we want results!  And we have trouble seeing the progress we are making, which often causes us to become discouraged.  We live in a pass/fail culture.  Either you are successful or you are not.  You pass the class or you fail the class.  You're a good guy, or a bad guy - yet we know that in most areas of our lives this is not really true.  We are on a journey as people, as parents, as children, and as friends and coworkers.  We tend to look at the situations where we have not responded as well as we wish we had and feel frustrated, discouraged and dissapointed with ourselves.  In general, seeing situations thus does not encourage us to overcome the next time but tends to spiral us down in feeling of overall negativity and self doubt.   This is where we must retrain ourselves to see things in a different way, to see the progress we do make rather than simply seeing our failures. 
      As I have written about before, I am currently working to lose weight and get healthier.  This is a journey, one with us and downs.  So much of this journey is affected by not just the things I do physically, but where I am at mentally.  The other day I was looking at current photos of myself and feeling a little discouraged. I have been working out regularly for six months now and still feel I have a long way to go (because I do) before I get to a really healthy place for my body.  As I was thinking about this I had to stop myself, this wasn't helpful. What was helpful?  To look at how far I have come.  I have lost 20 lbs, slowly, it's true, but I have continued to lose weight.  More than that, I am getting strong, and I feel so much better about myself.  So, while I do have a long way to go, I choose to dwell on how far I have come rather than what I have yet to do. This is the attitude we should have in all areas of our lives.  Looking for forward movement and being encouraged to keep going.  Instead of dwelling on all the times I've given in and gotten angry and yelled at my children, I am choosing to see all the times I have chosen not to.  I choose to remember the times that I have taken deep breaths and slowed myself down instead of reacting to situations.  (Even as I write this I am ignoring a tantrum my son is throwing, having told him that when he calms down for twenty minutes I will build a block castle with him. This is not easy for me to do, yet it is working.) I choose to remember the times that I have slowed myself down in my busy day and taken the time to play with my children or read a book to them.  I choose to love them in spite of their temper tantrums and so I choose to love myself in spite of my sometimes negative responses to these temper tantrums.  I choose to see myself how my heavenly Father sees me, someone on a journey.  A journey learning to love as he loves and listen as he listens.  I refuse to start a downward cycle every time I give in to anger.  I choose to ask for forgiveness and move on, loving these children, and my spouse, on this journey of life.
James 1:2-5 says "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
 whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
      What a great reminder that all of these trials are not for naught and that we are not alone.  Give yourself grace, ask for wisdom and continue to love those around you, regardless of how they respond to you.  We can only control ourselves, but our responses do effect others one way or another.   Happy Holidays my friends, and may the struggles of this season not get the best of you!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Lessons I've learned through marriage

     This past summer I went to several bridal showers, and one thing that happens at most bridal showers is that they ask women who've been married for a while to write down a piece of advice for the couple.  They do this, because anyone who's been in a relationship (and even those who haven't) knows that relationships are tricky and any tips and tricks you've figured out for yourself might be able to give this couple a little boost.  It's a great idea, however I often sit there thinking "What's a piece of advice I've learned...I've been married 9 years, should have figured out something....what's just one thing....drawing a blank here."   Usually I come up with something in the end, sometimes I don't.  Mostly I think this is because it's hard to be put on the spot, but also I think that sometimes in order to give advice we feel as though we have to have it all figured out and that's just not true. You never "figure it all out" we are all growing and learning new things all the time, and relationships are no different.
      So after the last time this happened I sat down to think about it a little bit.  I know that I've learned a lot of helpful things along the way, so what are they.  If I can't cognitively remember the things I've learned, how am I supposed to remember them in the heat of frustration?  So, for my own sake, I made a list.  And for the sake of anyone in any kind of relationship I've decided to share that list.  No promises it will be helpful to you, but here it is.

1.  Make an effort to appreciate each other's hobbies.  Notice the language here.  You don't have to love, or even enjoy your spouses hobbies, but if you put a little effort into learning about them you might surprise yourself.  At the very least, try not to roll your eyes and resent them when they come up.  A few months after Seth and I first got married I commented that we never just sat and talked anymore.  To my surprise,  he said to me "I know. You're not interested in the things I'm interested in."  Seth really enjoys working on old cars (not cool old cars, ugly old cars) and not being a mechanically minded person, the whole subject bored me to death.  After he said that though, I decided to make an effort.  I asked questions, I watched youtube videos with him.  I learned what a transfer case was, I learned how to tell if a truck is a 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton or 1 ton and so on (oh how I always wanted to know that!) and now I love cars...Oh wait, no, I don't.  However, now that I understand more I am not near as bored when he talks about them.  I can picture a little bit what he's talking about, I can respect his interest and I can get excited with him.   I don't hate watching car shows, though they're not my first pick. Now that I have more knowledge I can also veto expensive unnecessary car parts without much argument.  More importantly, because I made an effort to care about what he cares about, he did the same to me, and we found ourselves naturally talking to each other again about the things we were excited about, both individual and shared interests.

2.  This one comes off of the first, but it's worth mentioning.  Find the hobbies you enjoy doing together and focus on those.  Don't have any?  Create some.  Seth and I both love the outdoors, but you really have to plan that or it doesn't happen. We decided to camp once a month all year long.  And we did. This is how, we pulled out the calendar in January and marked off 12 weekends.  If something came up later in the year (which happened much less often then you'd think) we would simply re-schedule it.  We got the stuff together we needed to camp comfortably for us and our children (at the time it was only one child) and we had a blast.  After two years we found ourselves going just because we said we'd go and realized winter tent camping isn't for the faint of heart, and wasn't our favorite family activity, so we changed it to once a month (or more) May through September.  What happened is that we created a camping culture in our family and it's stuck.  Our children love getting out in the woods and so do we.  
    Another hobby we've taken up is bow hunting.  Well, Seth has.  I've never been a hunter and I'm still not, but when Seth got a bow and started target shooting a lot we quickly realized that this could be very time consuming but that archery could be something our whole family could do together.  Especially since we live out of town and can shoot our bows on our property it's become a shared activity we all enjoy, even the kids.  I find it very stress relieving to go outside and shoot my bow,  even just for 15 minutes or so.  Once they get better I think the kids will really like it, right now they enjoy it for about ten minutes.  Hobbies can draw you together or push you apart.  They take time, money, and energy.  They are important but shouldn't isolate you from each other too much.  It's totally fine to have hobbies you do alone, but talk to each other to find a balance of your activities, their activities and shared activities.  I think this becomes even more important when children to come into the picture, specifically for women, because children can unintentionally become their only hobby and that's both overwhelming and unhealthy.  We all need a break sometimes.

3.  Learn your spouses love language.  If you're not familiar with the five love languages I would highly recommend the book "The five love languages" (go figure) by Gary Chapman.  At the very least I'd suggest taking the free online quiz.  https://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/  The idea is that we all feel love in different ways and we all show love in different ways.  For me, Quality time, Gift giving and Acts of Service are very high, while words of affirmation is low and Physical touch is virtually non-existent.  Seth however is highest in Physical touch.  You can see how this could be a problem, mostly if I was not aware of it (which I wasn't for about five years.)  Naturally we tend to show love how we receive it, but not only is it not helpful, it can be detrimental.  I would be sweeping the kitchen at the end of the day and Seth would come up, stop me, and give me a hug.  I literally thought he was trying to sabotage me.  He had no clue why I was frustrated, he was just trying to say "I love you."  Now I still fight the urge to be annoyed when my productivity is squashed by an embrace, but I recognize his goal is to show me love.  Also, he tries to remember this and helps out more than he used to.  If we continually spend time and energy to show love in ways our spouse does not appreciate we will feel frustrated and annoyed, and they will still feel unloved and in some cases, feel unknown.

4. Don't ask questions to trap your spouse.  This comes up most often during arguments, and it's most commonly (but not exclusively) done by women.  Questions like these, "Don't you love me anymore?"  "Do you think I'm fat?" People joke about stuff like this, but honestly It's not funny if you're holding a grudge.  If there's no good answer than it's a trap and it's detrimental to your marriage.  No good can come of it.  I have only done this once.  We had been married less than a year and we were arguing about something and I was feeling hurt.  I turned to him and asked "Are you sorry you married me?"  There was a pause.  Then he said no, but it was too late, the pause was too long.  For a moment I felt justified in my pain, he doesn't care about me the way he used to! Then, clearer than I ever have I heard the Lord before, I heard him tell me (not audibly) "Don't do that ever again." It was as though he'd spoken it out loud.   Don't ask questions in anger that have no good answer, all they bring is hurt.  They never help anything.  Seth had paused because he was mad, not because he didn't love me and not because he was sorry he married me. I had wanted to wallow in self-pity, but it was not helpful.  If it's not going to bring life to your marriage, don't ask it.

5.  Go to bed at the same time.   This is actually a piece of advice some friends gave us right before we got married and it has served us well.  There are times when we don't go to bed at the same time under special circumstances, but in  general, we do.  It's such a positive connecting time, some of our best conversations have happened when we were going to bed.

6.  Don't have serious discussions after 9pm.  I have heard people say not after 8, but since our kids don't go to bed until 8 that's not practical for us and as long as it's before 9:30 or 10 it usually goes well.  The key here, no matter the hour is to not be having serious discussions when you are really tired.  You become more sensitive, less logical and much more reactive when you are tired.  If you find yourselves going in circles take moment to stop and see if you can peacefully agree to come back to the subject at another time.  Sometimes we find that in the morning it's actually not even an issue anymore, we were simply feeling exhausted overworked and under appreciated by one another and in the morning we could see that we were both doing all that we could and that sometimes being a grown up (and especially a parent) is just plain hard, but it looks better with rest.

7.  Take time to share with each other how you process information.  If you haven't already done this in some way I would encourage you to.  Seth and I already knew we processed things differently but a few years ago on a road trip we had a long discussion about it, and discovered a lot.  I am a verbal processor, I have to sort things out as I am saying them most of the time.  Often times I repeat what I have said several times, changing it just slightly.  This is not just to make a point, it's because I'm editing myself.  I might say something and realize that's not quite what I meant and restate it.  Or I might say the exact same thing twice, the second time is me reiterating that's what I meant.  Seth does all this processing mentally.  It's like he has a big chalkboard in his head and he's sorting everything out before he says it.  Just thinking about trying to do this makes my head hurt.  Two very different styles, but now that we know, at least in a nutshell, how the other person thinks we have much more grace for one another.

8. When you feel drained, don't be a martyr.  Think about what you need or what would be helpful, specifically, and ask for it.  If we don't know what the other person needs it's very hard to help them.

9.  Frequently take time to remember the things you love about your spouse.  Tell them these things.  Encourage one another.  It's easy to get so busy doing life that you start to feel more like coworkers than spouses.  Don't make this mistake.  When it seems the hardest to find time to enjoy one another, that's when you need it the most.  Never stop making each other a priority.

So there you have it, these are just a few of the many lessons of learned this past decade.  If you have any nuggets of wisdom you've picked up I'd love to hear them as well

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Making the change - my journey to a healthier lifestyle

  Everyone says that after you work out you feel amazing. AMAZING.  Three and a half months ago I would have had to disagree with you.  All of you.  I had been talking to a dear friend of mine who had told me she was doing a 30 day trial at a new gym in town called Burn Bootcamp.  It's mostly for women, only 45 minutes long (they have just one workout each day that they offer several different times, both morning and afternoons.)  It had a free two week trial, which included child care and three of my friends were currently going.  Sounds amazing.  I wasn't going to go.  Partially because I was already in superior physical shape and partially because it sounded like a lot of work and I didn't want to go.  Oh wait, I wasn't in superior shape, in fact the wear and tear of adding four babies in seven years had made quite the significant impact on my life.  So there it is, it sounded like a lot of work and I didn't want to go. 
     The problem is that even though I didn't want to go I was extremely aware that something needed to change.  Growing up I always had a kind of athletic build, not the super toned kind, but the sturdy, can lift lots of weight kind.  I didn't obsess over my size.  I might have wished my stomach was a little flatter, but I could do pretty much anything I wanted to do and that was always enough. As I got older and moved to Bend, Oregon I remained active, even taking up new sports, such as cross country skiing, rock climbing and even running.  Then I started having knee issues and backed off of running while still continuing to enjoy the outdoors.  Along came Seth and I ended up moving back to Sheridan and getting married.  Then we had a baby, moved to Corvallis and after several miscarriages had another baby.  Working out came and went for me as I adjusted to life with a baby, then a baby and pregnant and so on.  Weight came a little at a time with each pregnancy and left, a little less each time after each baby.  After three babies I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel from nursing my babies at night while holding them with my wrist in an odd position.  The idea of working out seemed overwhelming as I had to be careful of my knees, and my wrists wouldn't even support my weight. My active lifestyle became a "just maintaining" lifestyle and then not even.
     The less active I got the more overwhelmed I felt.  Raising kids is hard enough without feeling like you just can't get ahead.  The idea of rock climbing again felt ridiculous and yet I thought about it with longing, not so much for that particular activity but more the feeling that I was healthy enough to do all the activities I enjoyed.
      After my fourth (and last) child I had all the excuses not to work out, but even that doesn't make the need go away. So when Liana told me she was going to Burn bootcamp and that I could try it for free and take my kids with me too, I decided not to overthink it and just go enjoy two weeks of free child care.  So I went.  And I died.  Only I didn't, I just felt that way.  My first day was a high energy cardio workout (never my strong suit) and as I made my way through a circuit of burpees, double under jump roping, hurdles and many other exercises I found myself struggling.  I couldn't catch my breath, I felt light headed and about to throw up. Worse than all that however was my mental battle. The battle in my mind that said it was too little, too late.  That all I had was not enough.  I was worse off than I thought and this just might be too much for me. I didn't seem to be able to modify it enough to not struggle.  I was always going to be overweight and out of control.  Afterwards I did not feel amazing, I felt defeated. I went in the bathroom and cried.  The next day I did the only thing I could do,  I came back.  I don't give up easily and I was determined that this wasn't an area I was going to give up on.  It was a leg day and I could harldy walk up stairs for three days afterwards my muscles were so tight, but at one point there was an excercise that I absolutely excelled at. It was my first win.  I did really well at it, and it gave me hope.  I kept coming.  At the end of the next week I had to use my inhaler several times and ended up hyperventilating at the end of a particularly hard work out. It was embarrassing to say the least, but I was seeing improvements.  My mantra began to be, "just keep moving" and "push a little harder than you think you can." My two weeks had turned into a month as someone had given me a 30 day pass, but as the days went by I knew I was going to need so much more than a month.  This particular program has memberships that you sign up for in increments of 6 months, getting cheaper the longer you sign up for.  The most I felt I could commit to was a year, but it felt like a big commitment both physically and financially.  This is what it came down to though, it was a break from the kids, I had friends going and my husband encouraged it, and (after that first week) I felt great afterward.  If I wasn't going to do this now, I was probably never going to make the changes I needed to to be healthy. That was a sobering thought.  At some point you just have to put in the work.  Seth was the one who really encouraged me to do it, so I did. I knew summer was coming up and that's a super busy time so I gave myself the goal of working out 12 times a month.  That way even if I was gone a week I could make it up.  It's been a good challenge, and I've made it every month and have often exceeded my goal.  I was gone for eighteen days in July (scattered around) and still made it happen.  I have found myself looking forward to workouts as well as connecting with friends, both old ones and new.  Although I knew my body would be positively impacted by regular exercise I did not realize how much it would affect my mind.  I feel like a weight has been lifted and the negative thoughts that made me feel so overwhelming trapped are going away.  I had been dreading the hard work, but now I relish it.  My whole life is effected. I am more disciplined, I eat better, I get up earlier, and I get more quiet time.  Having my quiet devotional time always refocuses me on the Lord and reminds me to look to him for my strength.  I really can't do any of this on my own and I need to stop trying.  All this brings out a kinder, more loving, more connected mother and wife.  I used to find myself feeling annoyed when I would read posts like this about people who were losing weight and getting healthy, mostly because it reminded me of all that I was lacking. So if this post annoys you, I get it, but I would encourage you to look and see what small thing you can change.  We have to be willing to put in the work in one area or another to make changes. I simply wasn't willing for a long time, that's the truth.  The workouts I once dreaded have become a source of coping for daily stress.  No matter how tired I am I always feel better after. I really do.   A year ago I don't think I would have mentally been ready for this commitment, but even then I decided to make one change.  I started planning meals.  Being intentional in one area helped prepare me for bigger changes ahead.  The biggest thing that used to hold me back was the fear that I would put out a lot of time and energy and not see results.  I didn't believe I could change, so I didn't.  Then I thought it might be possible and found that it is.  My knees still ache, my wrists still have carpal tunnel and I have to do pushups on my fists.  I still have a lot of weight to lose but I am stronger than I was and will continue to get even stronger. I know that I can do a little more than I have done before, so I do.  That is how we move forward.  Whatever it is in your life that you struggle to change I would challenge you to take one step forward.  Find that one thing you can change and then change it.  When you're ready, challenge yourself to do more.  I think you will find yourself more capable than you thought.   Thank you to my friends who challenged themselves first and continue to encourage me to do the same.                  

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day

     Memorial day.  The last long weekend of the school year and the first real sign of summer.  A holiday that is associated with BBQ's and camping trips.  For some it ends there, but for many others it's so much more.
     Growing up every Memorial day was magical to me.  My whole family would go to Tilikum day Camp in Carlton, OR along with my grandparents for a day canoeing, fishing, and hiking.  This place is still has a special place in my heart.  I caught my first fish there, a rainbow trout.  My grandpa Leroy made me take it off the hook and I almost gave up fishing.  I think I was about 7 years old.   In the afternoon we would sit under a shady tree at a picnic table with an iconic red and white table cloth and eat KFC chicken, mashed potatoes, bisquits and drink cold lemonade.  The table was always adorned with a stand holding little flags, the American flag and the Marine corp flag.  At the time I didn't think much of it, but that little holiday stood for so much more than chicken and fishing trips for my grandparents.    As my grandparents got older we stopped going to Tilikum and would instead have a BBQ at their house, eating hamburgers and drinking lemonade around the same stand of flags, enjoying family and remembering those who'd died for this country.
   I remember one year in particular we did something a little different. We all loaded up in our cars and went to a big Memorial somewhere near Portland.  Standing there looking out at all those flags, a representation of so much loss and sacrifice even I couldn't help but be overcome by the magnitude of it all, though the names on the wall and the little markers didn't have faces or stories to go with them. However as I looked over at my Grandfather, one of the strongest men I've ever known and saw tears streaming down his face, you could almost see the memories washing over him.  This might be the only time I ever saw him cry and it had I will never forget it.  This big, strong man shaking and with sobs of grief and loss.  I had always heard the footnotes version of his experiences in WW2, and those stories were foggy at best in my memory.  His best friend (and many other friends) had been killed, he'd had to jump out of a plane that was hit at one point (or one of his friends had? Not positive about this one.)  He had served 20 years in the Marine's and then retired to become a Post Master in El Cajon, CA (or somewhere in that vacinity.)   I always wanted to know more, but somehow it seemed a sacred, avoided subject. So much loss.   My Grandmother had her own loses as her one and only brother, her baby brother, Ira Cornell had died along with two other soldiers somewhere in France as they helped save a town from the enemy.  There is actually a statue in their honor standing to this day in that same town.   All these things I knew, but what I knew more than the stories, told and untold alike was the shadow they left behind.  They weren't something to be lingered upon or shared often, but what was always impressed upon me was to be grateful for their sacrifice, and remember what had been given for this country they loved so much.  The freedoms we love and take for granted, and the freedoms that allow us at times to diss those who gave them to us (how ironic is that?)   I hear shouts and soldiers "Peace, not war." Peace?  Yes, these men and women wanted Peace.  They fought for peace and it meant more to them than it does to us because they knew what it was like not to have it.  They saw the price they needed to pay and gladly paid it.  Men and women continue to do so today.  So whether or not I agree with all the politics surrounding the armed forces, may I never forget to thank those who serve and to remember those whose lives have made mine possible.  To my father who graduated early to serve in the Marines, Thank you.  To both my grandfathers, gone before me and my great Aunt Margaret as well, thank you.  And for those of you who are serving today or are family members of those serving (we know that the sacrifice you make is just as great), Thank you.   Wishing you all a happy Memorial day.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The true heros of Birthdays

Tomorrow I turn 35 years old.  As much as I love Birthdays (and believe me, I do) ever since becoming a mom I can't help but think about my mom every time my birthday comes up.  When I was a child I remember waking up on my Birthday only to have my mom standing over me, wishing me many happy wishes from the get go.  She has always made me feel special, but even more so when Birthday's approach.  As a mother myself,  I too get giddy at the upcoming birthdays of my children, I recall to myself over and over what it was like those last uncomfortable weeks and days, the anticipation and joy as we welcomed each of our children into this world. 
   When it comes to my own Birthday, I now can't help but be overcome with gratitude for my mom.  At 2 1/2 weeks overdue (when my older two siblings were each two weeks early) and weighing in at 9 lbs, the largest of all my mom' babies) my mom was definitely ready for my birth.  Every day for over a month she must have been anticipating the upcoming event, but to no avail until finally on one mid January day in 1983, I made my entrance.  Giving birth to a child is so miraculous and yet so painstakingly hard.  First you carry them for nine months, facing both physical sickness and mental struggles,  random ailments attacking from all sides, as well as expectations, fears, and exhaustion, just a few of the feelings that can overwhelm you as you're faced with the onslaught of pregnancy hormones. Giving birth however is just the beginning, you now have to raise the child.  The next five years come down with a sort of boot camp intensity, strengthening your long suffering while seemingly attempting to flush out all of your weaknesses at once.  After the young years come the slightly less physically demanding, yet even more daunting task of raising these pre-teeens and then teenagers into the kind of adults we want to have relationship with.  I have not yet gotten to the phase, but as I watch friends go through it and remember my own childhood, I know it's not easy. My parents both did a great job in this area (parenting,) my hat is off to you, Mom and Dad.
    On Birthdays we celebrate people as though they did something amazing on this day, when really all the hard work was done by someone else, and they simply did what they could not keep from doing if they tried. They were born.  Having both been born and given birth (four times,) I assure you, being born is the much easier feat.
       All my life people have commented on how much I am like my mother, in both appearance and personality.  When this has been told in both of our hearing my mom's often response has been something to the effect of "Michelle is my one child that's like me, though she hates that."  I sit there awkwardly, not saying anything.  I honestly can't remember what I thought of those comments as a child, but as an adult I know that my silence has long been misunderstood by her.  It is not at all that I would not want to look like/act like her, but rather from disbelief.  I know and believe that we have similarities, but she is one of the most active, vibrant, caring, generous, beautiful and kind people I know.  She loves relentlessly, serves Jesus unfailingly and pours herself out endlessly to family, friends, and strangers alike.  If I, in anyway resemble her in either form or spirit, I am humbled and thankful.   So on this day that she went into labor and later gave birth 36 years ago, I am exceedingly grateful to you Mom, and will always be proud to be your child.  Thank you for your sacrifice.  And Dad, I know you were there too, and though different your sacrifices were different, they have been no less. Thank you.