Friday, February 27, 2015

Six days you shall be sick, and on the seventh, leave your house!

I went to the grocery store yesterday and realized that it was the first time I'd left my house in SIX DAYS. Holy. Freaking. Cow. I was going to leave several times, but then someone else threw up or I was too nauseated or I needed to sleep.

Six days, y'all. That's recluse material right there.

But as of (maybe) today, I think we're all well. Finally. The last few weeks have felt like a few months, and like I've been living in some alternate universe where we're the only family left on earth and my earth has shrunk to the size of my living room because that's where all the towels and trashcans have been gathered.

I've felt under God's thumb since Christmas, feeling like I can't catch break from sleeplessness or sickness or just plain hard days.

I feel absolutely afflicted.
But not crushed.
Completely perplexed by why all this would be happening so unrelentingly.
But not driven to despair.
(2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

Not much has gotten easier and circumstances aren't drastically different, but it's the strangest thing. In the affliction, I keep sensing the kindness of God. Not some sick sadistic "God's-pain-is-good" or a trite sweep, "God is teaching me so much through this hardship." It's more that I've sensed in small ways that while He hasn't taken away my difficulties, He also hasn't abandoned me. In fact, He's done the opposite: He's been holding me close. Our quarantine has brought depth and repentance to my marriage, simple, restful days and schedules, lots of opportunities for reflection and desperation, an opportunity to show myself needy to those around me, and sweet (albeit) sick time with my kiddos. And, in the Great Plan, Phil happened to be off this past week--something we eye-rolled back in November when he had to take this random vacation week. Silly us.

So I'm fragile, but sustained, and promise I'm done whining about sickness, at least this go-around. I have had a life. I've read a book! My kids have said/done hilarious things! I got hit on at the gym! Good stuff. But six days at home sick and my brain is still getting up to speed. Soon, people. Soon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The best gift anyone has ever given me, ever.

The man at the front desk must have wondered what my story was--a woman in her mid-thirties with bags under her eyes so big you could fit your keys in them, checking into a hotel at 1:30 in the afternoon by herself. Surely they do that, guess people's stories. I know I would. Worst case scenario, I would have pegged me as an abused woman looking for a safe place until I figured out the next step. Best case, I was an intriguing writer, looking for solace to write my next piece. I wouldn't have pegged me for what I was: an exhausted mama who could hardly string a sentence together she was so tired.

For months, I'd rearranged and organized and planned to be out of town for a conference for three days. My mom would drive in from a few hours away to help with the kids since Phil was working part of the time, I'd cooked meals ahead of time to make it easy for everyone, and I'd spent at least an hour typing up specifics of childcare to make a smooth transition. For about six weeks leading up to this trip, nothing has felt easy. We've had sick kids and I've been sick and had weird ailments and one child has genuine nighttime fears and the other child is cutting five teeth at once and we're all sleep-deprived in a way I could only compare to having an infant. Even the weather tried to keep me from going (my mom wasn't sure if she'd be snowed in or not), but the stars aligned and we had a window where it looked like I could go and all the details would fall into place.

Until 4:00 a.m. on the morning I was supposed to leave. Moo woke with his first ever ear infection, which meant I needed to take him to the doctor, which meant I wasn't going to make it to the conference on time. No problem; I'd just get there late. But then came the vomit in the car seat on the way home from the doctor. Thank God my mom was there to help watch Noodle while I cleaned the boy and every other surface of my house and car. With a tearful goodbye, I sent Mom home, grateful for her coming but not wanting to get her sick. My heart sunk a little, but I could still leave the following morning when Phil got home and make the second half.

But with one child waking from a fever all night and another screaming from teething pain, I got a grand total of three hours of sleep last night. Going to that conference wasn't looking likely anymore; I wasn't even awake enough to safely be behind a wheel.

My heart sank. A lot. All that planning and orchestrating--for what? Obviously, sick kids are worth missing something for--it wasn't that. It was that I felt like I'd done all this work and spent all this time on something that would have no fruit--or rotten fruit, whichever analogy you want. I wanted to know why this was all happening; it just didn't seem fair. And really practically, I just needed some sleep and a break from being needed at all hours of the day and night. I'd held on for weeks, but I was about to break.

It wasn't long before Phil suggested that I get a hotel in town for the afternoon and all night while he watched the kids. The thought thrilled me but was quickly met with guilt: I can't leave the kids. I can't leave him with sick kids. That's so indulgent of me. But he wouldn't have it, and as I began to wrap my head around the reality of so many hours to myself to do whatever its was that was life-giving, my heart lightened rather than sunk. So I was sent away with a kiss, leaving the kids in the most able hands of their daddy and looking at a day and night to myself. I don't think I've had this much time to just to myself since I had kids.

As an introvert, I know time by myself and away is vital for me, but I didn't realize just how "by myself" I needed to be, and for how long sometimes. My tendency is to take alone time and be productive with it or invite others into it rather than protect it; I've fooled myself into thinking that protecting it is selfish, and while it can be, it hasn't been yet.

So I resisted being productive (working out, running errands) and opted for the harder discipline: pulling away, being quiet, being totally and completely alone. I almost didn't go to Starbucks for coffee and writing because I didn't want to leave the cocoon, but I figured it might not be good for me to be in a hotel room for 18 straight hours (and love it).

I took a shower so stingy hot and long that my skin pinked and pruned.

I ate lunch and dinner in bed and didn't have to make or clean up after it.

I took a perfect nap.

I binge-watched Jimmy Fallon and SNL on breaks from writing.

Because I wrote. For hours. It was like electricity.

I blocked out fantom cries and soaked in silence; I barely talked.

And my legs haven't been this smooth in a month.

I feel taken care of and rested and a little bit more human. This is absolutely the best gift anyone has ever given me, ever. There's a whole other spiritual side to this story, but I'll have to share that later because this day began 17 hours ago and it's time for this tired mama to sleep through the night.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The story my floor is telling

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My living room floor is littered with candy from a Valentine's Day care package, farm animals abandoned near the barn, an elaborate garage built for Lightning McQueen (who, by the way, has magical powers to sleep all day and all night in there, given that he has some "sleep songs" sung to him every now and then), some clean laundry that's giving me the eye for typing instead of folding, a homemade paper crocodile that's giving me the creeps with it's unblinking stare, and about 18 other things tucked into bookshelves, under ottomans, and inside other toys--with good reason, of course.

In my mind, my floor is evidence of some bad, out-of-control week because I feel like a bad, out-of-control mama a lot of the time, but as I write, that floor of mine is sounding pretty fun (except for the laundry part). Despite one of my kids being awake for the day at 4:30 (or before!) every morning this week (read: exhausted mama who's kicking on Jesus and caffeine, in that order), their lives and mine are pretty darn great. As my friend says, "We're living the dream!" And we are.

So we had to stay home all week because we're sick. So we're running on fumes. So we maybe shouldn't be operating machinery because we're that tired. But our days are good, filled with playing and painting and reading and chasing and singing made up songs. Truthfully, there are lots of moments when I'd rather be somewhere else or do something else; sometimes I go to the bathroom when I don't actually need to pee just to have a minute to myself, and even then I see the little fingers under the door (or the forceful kick, thank you toddler boy).

But my floor tells a different story, one full of life and happiness, and it's funny because my insides don't feel lively and happy right now. They're just surviving, deciding what's absolutely necessary to make it to the next meal, to make it to whenever it is that I can sleep. But I'm glad to see that the external is coming out differently, which means somewhere in my get-me-out insides there's life. Because it's spilling out--onto my floors, into my car, under my couch. And I've maybe never been so grateful for the glorious mess staring back at me. 

But there's still the laundry, so, you know, waxing eloquent about the mundane has to stop somewhere. On to folding.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The hard work of being still

January was full of:
answering questions like "Why did Jesus die on the cross?"
and wiping more snot than I thought any tiny human was capable of producing 
and battling some serious seasonal depression
and not sleeping enough at all
and trying without success to get those precious children to nap at the same time
and writing a talk for one of the Bible studies at our church
and trying to make some really big grown up decisions about the future. 

So yeah. Writing's been boxed out. But I'm here today, right now, and I want to process those big, grown up decisions a bit with you. Phil and I are asking questions about moving to another house in our city--if to move, when to move, where to move, and most importantly WHY to move. And intimately wrapped up in that is the SCHOOL question--which school and, again, WHY. We're asking hard questions like: "What do we value and how are those values reflected in these decisions?" and "What is God asking of OUR family here?" (read: quit comparing) and "What's motivating these decisions?" We're touring schools and having intentional conversations with those on all sides and it's just plain hard and confusing. Add to that my background in education, and I'm deeply, deeply invested in this decision. 

I used to think that decisions would get easier as I got older because I'd be so much more experienced and wise, but it's the opposite: I know now how much I don't know, and life choices are about 500 shades of grey. We're grateful that our problem is deciding among great schools--we really are. But it's also harder because there's no clear "right" decision. They're all good options, so the issue of "which one?" is completely muddied. And the ones we're deciding among are likes apples and oranges. If were were comparing two apples, one would pretty quickly surface as a frontrunner, but comparing such different schools and philosophies makes the decision difficult. 

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You know what I'm resisting most in this process? Seeking God's face. Like really creating space in my day to be quiet, pray, meditate, lay my heart before him, seek wisdom in scripture, and listen to Him and sense the Spirit. I don't want to stop for that. I want to get going. I want to talk to other people and get advice and I want to get online and look up practical things like how far it would be from Phil's work to whatever neighborhood we moved to. Those things would at least make me feel like I was doing something. But prayer? Waiting? Listening? Stopping? That feels like nothing even though it's everything. No shortcuts. But that hard work of being still? It's worth every minute.