Thursday, March 15, 2018

To All the Moms of Littles

"You'll miss these days when they are gone!" .... Said most some mothers once their children were older.

I'm not most women.

I was one of those moms of littles who longed for the days ahead - the days they could sleep, the days they could eat, the days they could crawl, the days they could walk, the days they could talk, the days they could stop talking so much, the days they could dress themselves, wipe themselves, do all the things themselves. I cannot even begin to tell you how often I felt guilty about my desire to be done with the itty-bitty season! (Which for me, meant up to age five.) After all, the days are long but the years are longer....or something.

So here I am, 18 years of parenting under my belt (which I realize means very little). I have five children ages 10 to 18, and now....a baby...again! {{Yawn}} It is so incredibly strange parenting an infant alongside parenting teens. Who am I kidding, parenting teens is incredibly strange! Kidding. Sort of. Parenting babies requires so much physically. Parenting older children requires so much mentally and emotionally. Go ahead. Ask me how tired I am. Let me paint a small picture of our current reality: Tonight 4 of the 6 kids had somewhere different to be. The one child who drives had a thing and she couldn't help with transport. All this was taking place during babies bedtime. This is what is known as a conundrum. Everyone is now home and safely tucked in their beds (or watching Netflix on their phones). We made it.

I tell young moms who ask me how I survived, that each season comes with its own hard. I've always referred to parenting kids from birth to age five as the, "keep them alive phase". You know, you don't really interact much. You just sort of...keep them from drowning, choking, avoiding a mad swarm of wasps, falling down the stairs, starvation, dying kind of things. This phase is incredibly tiring physically. (Physically hard.) Then from five on, I call it the, "keep me alive phase". You know, because most days you find yourself thinking or feeling multiple times a day that you are probably not going to make it out of these years alive. These tiny versions of you are taking over your life, plotting how to slowly destroy you, and you just don't understand how you will live. This phase is incredibly tiring mentally and emotionally. (Emotionally hard.)

Going back to an infant after years and years of everyone wiping their own butts, and sleeping through the night, there's a few things that this current phase of parenting has taught me that I wish my younger mommy self had known. The biggest lesson being that there is no shame in longing for a new season! You can simultaneously long for a different season while enjoying the one you are in. You just can. Most mommy blogs will tell you otherwise - but I promise, it's true. The thing is, a lot of the blogs and books and articles out there like to tell us that if we don't soak up the early years, we will regret it one day. I've realized there is a reality that these articles are missing. A reality that I hope to offer freedom to for any of you who are like me. Some of us are wired to do all the things moms of itty-bittys do. And some of us are wired to engage with kids who we can have an actual conversation with. And every now and then, there is that freakish mom who does both really well and loves both seasons equally. (Honestly, she is probably who is writing the articles that make ALL of us feel guilty.) ((Kidding. If you are one of those moms, I adore you and want to be you when I grow up. Thank you for making the world spin.))

Aside from that giant lesson that I hope just offered freedom to some guilt-ridden young mom out there, I thought I would share a couple of other things I've noticed as I find myself navigating both phases of parenting (the keep them alive and keep me alive phases). The sheer fact that I SURVIVED the early years is exactly what has given me a new perspective. I think the reason why moms of littles who long for the next season feel the way they do is not because they don't like babies. It's because they aren't sure how they will survive. Same goes for moms who struggle with the teen years. They struggle not because they don't enjoy it, or want it to be over - it's because they aren't sure how they will survive. So there you have it. We are all just trying to survive. And here I just thought I was discontent.

So here it is... a few things I wish my mom-of-littles self had known. Not just known, but known that I would live to tell about. I realize these may be nothing new to anyone. But I can almost guarantee that if you struggle with the early years like I did, you don't KNOW these things. And I want you to KNOW them.

1) This too shall pass. You will sleep again. You will go on dates with your spouse again. You will have time to take a shower longer than three minutes again. You will go to the bathroom a lone again. The phase where baby only wants mom? It will pass. The phase where baby only wants dad (and you HATE him for it, because honestly - what has he done anyway???!!!) .... okay, that one might not pass until they are 15 year old girls. That's your only shot. The toys all over the floor, taking up every square inch of your home? Yup, it will pass. The laundry sitting on top of every toy taking up every square inch of your home? Okay, no - that one won't go away. But you CAN teach them to wash, fold, and put away their own laundry. Well, wash. Insert whatever struggle you had today here: ___________. It will pass!

2) Birth to five years is really not that long. You will have time to make friends again in the future. You will have time to be a friend again. You will have time to dream again. You will have time to take care of you again. Time will come, and it will go. Five years is not that long. Keeping your babies alive is good work. YOU, Mamma, are doing a

3) Ages five to ten, you will endure more poop jokes, knock-knock jokes, and made up jokes that you have to laugh at. And it will actually be funny, usually. (When I was a kid, I made up a joke. It's still hilarious. Wanna hear it? "How'd the clothes get on the hanger????? "     ....... "They walked up the wall! "   ..... See! I've always been funny.) And sometimes, you'll be tired of your kindergartner who is convinced they know more than you now that they are in school, and you'll start to dream of when they are 13.

4) Ages 13-18. Some people struggle with these years. I might be married to one of those someone's. I won't lie, they are hard. Seriously - do you remember you as a teenager? I bet you weren't a walk in the park. But there is a preciousness in teenagers. I'm one of those moms who loves the teen years, even if I'm convinced they are TRYING to kill me. Your baby will one day finish high school and you will look back over the years and realize - huh, 18 years really was not that long. Will you miss when they were two? Maybe. I don't. I really like my 18 year old.

5) One kid feels so hard. You wonder how mom's with multiples do it. You are convinced they have some super-power that you do not. Then you have a second child. And you realize you are capable of keeping two kids alive at the same time. Then maybe you have a third, and you begin to doubt yourself all over again. For real. Three kids is the hardest! You shift from man-to-man to zone defense. (I actually have no idea about anything sports, but Aaron explained that phrase to me and it made alot of sense. If I had to pick a sport based on that analogy, I would choose golf.) If you go beyond three kids, you realize you survived three, and now you are more of a referee you keep going, and it's manageable again. The point is, the number of kids you have compared to the number of kids someone else has means nothing. Any number of children is just hard! (And for the record, having an 18 year old makes having a newborn way easier. But it's still REALLY hard. So do what you want with that reality.)

6) You will be annoyed some days. You will feel lonely, and tired. And then the years will pass and you won't be. You will look back with fond memories, and hope your children have fond memories because you are convinced your counseling fund is not nearly large enough. But they do have fond memories. And you'll talk about them together. It will be fond.

So moms. Give yourself some grace. You can lay your head on your pillow tonight and post that sweet picture of your baby doing whatever cute thing he/she did today with all the love in your heart, while saying all the curse words in the world to Daniel Tiger, and longing for the day you can watch Friends with your kids instead. You really can. Because you know what? You are going to wake up tomorrow (possibly at 2:00 AM), and you will slay it...AGAIN. You will love them fiercely, and dream of the days to come...All at the same time. Good job, mamma!

PS. I had a really great and funny blog planned in my head all day. I sat down a little bit ago with a glass of wine, the essential oils on (because you know, I can't have them on during the day with the baby), and the room nice and quite. But then one of my teens came home and turns on, "Friends". And well, I've been a little distracted. When I expressed that I had a great post in my head that she ruined with her T.V. watching, she asked me - "Is it about having five kids?" I said, "No. It's about having six kids!" Her reply? "Well, I just helped you then. You can put this in it." So I am. But now I just kicked her out, and am trying to make sense of this blog. Only I realized I haven't slept in seven months, and this is as good as it will get. It all was much more entertaining in my brain six hours ago.

Baby socks. These have been here, next to the bathtub, for about five days. Younger Jody would have been annoyed. But the past five days, I walk into this bathroom and just smile. Because really, baby socks are so stinking cute. And the baby who wears them is even cuter. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

2018 - The Year of Faithfulness

For the past several years, I have taken on the concept of choosing a "word" for the year. Not necessarily a New Years Resolution, but more a word that I feel will be good for my heart and mind to remember throughout the year. The past few years it has been interesting to watch my "word" unfold as the year progresses. I get to the end of each year and see a thread that has been woven through various circumstances. It has felt like a more intentional practice to me then a resolution. Not that getting to the gym or changing your diet isn't intentional, they are just a different kind of intentional. My hope with my "word" each year is to be intentional with my thoughts and heart.

In 2016, my word was - Be Still. (I know, I know...that's two words. I don't do math.)
In 2017, my word was - Wait.

When my 2017 word came to me, I must say - I felt a little annoyed. Wait felt an awful lot like, "be still". And being one who doesn't do well with stilling or waiting, I wanted a word that felt full of action and power! It didn't take long for me to decide that the two words are actually pretty different though. Be still was just that - still. But to wait? I realized that often in waiting, we are still free to pursue, dream, change, grow, cultivate. The kind of waiting I knew God was leading me into was not one that required inaction. Instead, it required a waiting NOT on circumstances, but on him. Psalm 27:14 ~ Wait on the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait upon the Lord. I entered 2017 knowing that circumstances may or may not change - but Jesus was asking me to WAIT ON HIM. This is a very different task than waiting for life to change.

As we were rounding the finish line of 2017, a lot of life had come and gone. A LOT. Major transitions with our church plant. Two surgeries. Recovery from a major surgery. Skunk invasions. House remodels. Insurance issues. Chronic Illness. And a BABY...a baby that came attached with heartache, and a system that makes me seriously lose sleep.  I had a friend ask me toward the end of 2017 if I felt like "wait" was still a good word in the face of all we had on our plates that required serious action. I absolutely believe that was the perfect word for last year. Much of the hard we faced in 2017 required a lot of us physically, but it required more of my heart. It required a position before the Lord of waiting on whatever it was that he was working through all of it. I'm honestly still not sure on most of it. But it was a reminder I needed time and time again last year.

Here we are in 2018. I felt toward the end of 2017 that I had an idea of what my word would be, but I have been praying on it for a little while longer. Maybe I'm stuck in waiting. 😏 But after a conference I attended last week, I'm letting it ride.....


I have wrestled with the simplicity and the complexity of that word. I have wondered if God is asking me to be faithful, or wanting me to remember that he is faithful. Uh, hello!?!?! BOTH!

Here we are in mid-February, and I have already started this year with an intense wrestling. I look at last year, at the last six years, that have left me feeling pretty battered and bruised. Then I look to the future, and the many unknowns that God is still asking us to wait on him for....and I feel like 2018 is already exhausting. A dear friend told me the other day that we all face seasons that are hard, but that our season seems unseasonably long. I agreed.

As I process the season God has us in, I have found myself asking two big questions:

1) Do we lack the wisdom necessary to make the right decision in the face of free will? Because it's starting to feel like we invite hard into our lives, possibly by making poor choices -- except they never feel like a poor choice at the time, so this doesn't seem right.


2) Are we doing exactly what God has asked of us? Have we stepped out in faith? (Or as I like to explain it - say yes now and figure out the details later.) In which case, I have had to stand face to face with great doubt...doubt that God has and will equip us. Doubt that he has a plan and a purpose for all the things. And a doubt that he will be faithful to carry us through it. This option feels gross.

So there you have it. Faithful. I obviously need to pray for more faith as I enter 2018. I've been a little a lot nervous about some of our current and soon to be life situations - wondering if it's all going to go in the direction I think it should, and so God is asking me to trust that he is faithful even when nothing makes sense. YIKES! But then I've thought about my lack of faith and have remembered how God has proven throughout history to be faithful - and it's MY faithfulness that needs to grow this year, because I am weak and frail and full of unbelief. (Mathew 6:30, Mathew 8:26, Mathew 16:8, Luke 12:28 least I'm not alone!)

The truth is, it is going to be both - God continuing to show me his faithfulness, and my need to grow in mine. I saw God be faithful through all we walked through in 2017. I see it throughout scripture. I see it in my friends our life. As I've dreamed of the book I want to write one day, I've actually thought on it being on the topic of God's faithfulness. I even have thought up some super cheesy titles! But living it day in and day out...and knowing that he is continuing to ask me to wake up each day and continue to say YES, even in the face of unknowns and hard - that's different. That's where I need to grow. It's safe to say that I am walking (er...limping) into this year expectant. Expecting to see more of God's faithfulness, and expecting to come face to face with my lack of.

But you know what I love, love, love about God???!!!! His faithfulness remains regardless of what mine is doing.  He's strong enough to go to the mat with me on this subject. He can handle my doubts and fears. And more than that - he loves me despite it all!

Happy 2018.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Not Good With Words - Complete Randomness with a dash of Theology.

I have recently read through some of my old blog posts. I have Facebook Memories to thank for that. A post I shared years ago will pop up in my "memories", and so I decide to read it. Man, I used to write A LOT. And I loved it. It was truly a life-giving experience every time my fingers hit the keys. I even have benefited from reading some of my old musings. I'm a verbal processor, and my way of verbalizing my thoughts was in a blog post. I told a friend a few months ago that since taking a hiatus from the writing world, it felt like all my thoughts were trapped in my brain since I was no longer writing, and I wasn't doing well with figuring stuff out as a result. She asked me why I don't just write for my own benefit, you know - without feeling the need to hit "publish". Weird. Who does that??!! I realized almost immediately that it is through writing that I reach my conclusions. To me, it almost feels conversational. In other words - when I write, I write as if I were actually sharing my thoughts with a trusted friend. (Bet you didn't know you were my BFF for the day, did you?) See, there's that verbal processing part again. And it feels empty to leave a conversation hanging with no conclusion. So since no one else is actually involved in said conversation, I'm forced to bring my thoughts full circle on my own. (Perhaps that is some weird form of narcissism? Or loneliness, I don't know.) Writing a post means I reach a conclusion, can release those thoughts for the moment, and get on with my life. (Total random side note, I'm reading a book right now where the author states she is an internal processor, and writing is how she does that. Maybe the difference between her and I is that she actually thinks through her words before penning them. Not me. What I'm typing at any given moment is in fact what I'm thinking - out loud, unedited, rarely deleted from any given post.)

For all you internal processors who are thinking my lack of writing and sharing with the world sounds lovely and as it should be...or for all of you who have no clue what I'm talking about, and are ready to stop reading this post this very moment, I'll tie it up. Or not.

I love to write. I haven't been writing. Largely because my brain no longer works the way it used to, and we haven't quite figured each other out yet. I'm how we like to say in my house - Not.Good.With.Words. But also, because much of what I've been walking through the past couple of years feels {GASP} too private to enter into on a public forum. Yes people - I DO have a filter. It's called sanctification. So basically, I've resorted to making my husband and about 1.5 friends receive the brunt of all my verbal vomit...regularly. The vomit spills over to others who happen to be in my presence at any given moment. It can look like drama, or whining, or some sort of beautiful transparency depending on the delivery. Bottom line is this - I'm sorry, world. (Especially you, Aaron & Michelle.)

One of the biggest reasons I haven't felt I have much to say here, is because I can't make sense of a darn thing lately. There is no pretty bow to tie up my thoughts with. It all feels like a mess. When I have read some of my old posts, I remembered the feeling of walking closely with the Lord and feeling like I was truly growing and maturing. These days I'm learning more how to navigate the desert and survival mode. There, I said it. I have felt life to be rather desertish for oh...a long time. I have seen and felt pain and strife more than I have seen and felt the hand of Jesus in our lives lately. Admitting that makes me feel like not only a stellar Christian, but also a stellar Pastor's wife. 

One thing I can tell you that I have learned in the desert is this - God is there. I always heard that was true, but in my previous mini moments of like weeks worth of desert times, I never got that. I would quickly grow angry with the Lord for the dry season he had placed me in, trying to claw my way out of the desert, even if that meant settling for a mirage. But where he has me now...this season??? As dry as it has felt, as lonely as it has seemed, out here in the desert for the first time in forever (cue Frozen music) - I know I'm not alone.  Like for real, I'm actually okay in my desert. I know it won't last forever, and I'm hopeful there will be some valuable insights that come from this season. One of the biggest being my deep understanding that in every season, Jesus really will be there. (And yes, so you know there is a difference between me being hardened and me being okay - I do daily ask God to move me on from this Sahara.)

Aaron and I had to go through an intense assessment(s) the past year and a half during our attempts to join the Acts 29 Network. As I broke down, rather embarrassingly, in front of a panel of other pastors and their wives - I was asked to define my "theology of suffering". Um, first of all, that feels like a very theological question (seeing how theology was actually a word used) of which should be directed toward my husband - the Pastor. And second, I didn't even know suffering had a theology. But seeing how I was the one falling apart, I rolled up my sleeves and blurted out the words trapped in my head for a long time. I don't entirely remember all that I said, but I do remember saying something like this - Aside from the fact that my suffering is minimal compared to what countless others are enduring, not to mention the suffering endured for me on the cross ... Jesus is in the suffering with me. His mercies really are new every day. And I have no doubt he will be here with me in my suffering again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Apparently I gave the wrong answer (or not the full answer at least) because one of the pastors responded with their concern about how they didn't hear this or that from me. (Insert some passage of scripture they quoted from somewhere in Isaiah that was certainly beautiful and true, but not my answer.) My reply to his concern was that having the hope that I will never have to walk through suffering alone is a very big deal to me. I haven't always lived there. I've lived more in doubt and fear that he will probably leave me or forsake me - even though he says he won't. So to be able to look to the uncertain future and know he is already there, and have the ability to rest in that...again, it's kind of a big deal to me.

So that's all. This is a very uneventful ending to this uneventful blog post. It feels a little icky to just stop here, because I don't really feel like I've made any sort of point worth sharing. But I guess maybe there is someone else out there who is also in the desert, and they need to know they can still love Jesus (and are deeply loved by Jesus) while feeling dry and parched and tired. Or maybe there is someone else out there who feels alone, like there aren't enough friends in the world to help you sift through the never ending words in your head. You could write it. (Apparently they let anyone write on these here interwebs.) Or you could know that Jesus is there, too. In your head. He knows the words.  Or maybe you're just a good friend, and you read this out of some feeling of obligation to me. Thanks. You're free to go now.

Maybe my friend was right. Maybe I should just write without clicking "publish". But really, where's the fun in that? I'm trying to get this figured out again...thanks to anyone willing to help me get there.

ps.... I just asked Aaron if interweb is one word or two. He laughed at me and told me it isn't actually a word. "So what", I said. "I get to use made up words on my blog if I want to!" But then I looked it up, and it actually is in the dictionary. Whatevs.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Houston, we have a problem.

Not having written since April of 2016, I'm not sure how to even fire this back up. A lot of life has happened, and my thoughts have piled up and are overflowing with nowhere to land. This could possibly be the worst case of writers block ever to have lived, but I long to put my thoughts back into some sort of shape again.

So where do I pick up at? Especially knowing this is going to be rusty. Very, very rusty. True story - I've tried to write a handful of posts and always delete them. I could talk about my seemingly never ending health issues. Or the skunk invasion of 2017. Or church planting. All that feels like old, tired news to me right now though...and probably to anyone who knows me. So I'll start with my heart today. It's been a heavy heart lately, so this could be interesting.

Now...before you start reading, I want to confess something, lest you start reading and decide you don't actually care what I'm about to talk about.

I've grown calloused, and I stopped caring. Or at least I buried the cares under a protective veil of I-don't-care.

There are many things fighting for our attention, our resources, our time, our care. If we are living life with our eyes actually open, we see the need for compassion and empathy all around us. We hear people sharing their stories, inviting us into the things they care about. But more often than not, unless we come face to face with a problem or a cause...until it becomes personal to us...we {fairly} easily turn a blind eye. The problems are too many, the resources are too few. We can't all care about this friend's non-profit, or that friend's ministry, this political issue, that health crisis, or Aunt Debbie's rescue dogs. Our hearts aren't meant to hold that much hurt. So when something does grab our attention for one reason or another, we run with it. We jump on the bandwagon and raise our voices in the fight to get others to care. Until we don't anymore.

When it gets too hard, when the spotlight shifts to someone or something else, or our cause stops being cool, compassion often runs its course. 

That's where I've lived the past few years. Compassion seemed to have dried up. Fighting for children used to be my thing...orphaned, foster, or trafficked children specifically. But I grew weary. (I also became sick and chose to navel gaze more often than realize others have it way worse than I do. So there's that...) I grew weary not only because I couldn't seem to rally any troops that made a substantial difference (in my mind), but because I personally was changed by the realities of how hard caring for the orphan can be. The problem seemed too big, and I am certainly too small. I didn't have the time, the resources, or the fight left. So my heart grew calloused. I didn't know how to continue to invite others into what I was clearly failing at.

The thing is, if we stop caring for and fighting for the things that actually matter to us, systems begin to crumble. And when systems begin to crumble, more and more people grow weary. And the ones left to pick up the pieces are the very ones we were trying to help to begin with. 

Now, as for life today....

At the end of September, we unexpectedly entered the world of Foster Care. It isn't technically foster care. We are what is called a, "Kinship Placement". While we have gone through the Colorado home study process in the past, we were not currently up to date on our home study, nor were we planning to re-enter this world...maybe ever. But, God had different plans.

The story of this sweet babe and the scenarios that landed him in our care is not my story to tell. But what I can say is that this has been one of the hardest things I've ever done. And I feel like I've done a lot of hard things! It's hard because we live in a broken world. I've been forced to stand face to face with a lot of brokenness, and it's left my mind spinning and my heart hurting. In this broken world, we have a broken governmental (foster care) system - left to care for those they were never designed to care for. The government, in my opinion, should not be the one deciding what is best for and how to care for our children. Don't worry. This isn't a political post, either. So I will leave that vague comment hanging there unexplained and undefended. It's mostly hard, though, because I have to watch a sweet, tiny human start his world in trauma, and continue to live it out until the government decides his fate.

What I do want to dive into and try to think more about are all the systems that are equally as broken (if not more so) which have led our government to have to be in the position they are today. I look around at the structures designed to keep us safe and instead, see them crumbling. I'm not casting stones here, as I am a guilty party myself. First and foremost, I believe the Church (notice the big C) has dropped the ball. We are to be the ones caring for families. Especially for the widow and the orphan, the poor, the homeless, the handicapped and ill (mentally and physically). The family structure is suffering and breaking. And the government system..well, I've already said that one. I'm not sure there are many systems not breaking down. Not to be Debbie Downer here, just saying what I observe. I'm also not saying that no one within these systems are doing it well, there are plenty doing it amazingly well. We need more of them! It's the system as a whole that I'm talking about.

I've had an up close view of human rights issues in third-world countries. And now I'm getting a closer glimpse of it right here on US soil that I had not paid much attention to...until it became personal.

(**Note: The following comments are not specifically about the story we are walking with the tiny human in our care. I've been doing a lot of reading and talking with others in similar places.**)

Children are stuck in a system that is supposed to be fighting for them, but they seem to actually be the ones paying the biggest price. The parents are facing financial strain beyond what is manageable, drug issues, being a product of abuse and neglect themselves, mental health issues, homelessness, and generally lacking a caring support system (or maybe neglecting their support system, which is a different problem). The Government steps in with limited resources, limited CARING employees, too many middle men, and more legal boxes to check than actual hearts for the people involved. The entire cycle ends up dehumanizing everyone, and that never will end well.

{Total bunny trail here, but maybe not. I've been looking at the correlation between those who grow up in a system and go on to repeat the cycle. I've also been looking at the homeless population, the children being born into homeless families, and the mental health crisis (and the connections between all of them). I recently listened to an audio book called, Crazy. I highly recommend it. He mentions at the beginning of the book that there are more mentally ill people housed in the Miami-Dade Prison alone than all of the mental institutions in the entire United States combined. That's disgusting. We've failed our mental health community. And this needs to change.}

I'm not even really sure where I'm going with this. I know my heart has been rattled, and I want to find my place in these human rights issue once again. I want to be a part of changing the broken systems, and picking up the pieces that our children are having to carry around. But, I don't know how. I do know it goes back to what I addressed at the beginning...Compassion.

Personally, I'm going to have to shave off my calloused heart and decide that my comfort is far less important than actually getting a little dirty and inconvenienced for the sake of helping someone else. Mostly though, I need to realize that I can't remain stuck in the enormity of the problem to the point of it causing paralysis. None of us are God. We can't fix everything. But I do believe that if we all chose to pursue what it is that pulls at our heart strings, giving just a little more than we think we have to give, and doing it consistently - we would begin to see the structures of our society mend. I really do actually believe that. (Um, I also feel the need to say we also need to stop deeming our cause more important than someone else's, or view others as less than if they aren't doing the things we are doing. That's just not helpful. There's plenty of hurt to go around for us all to pick a cause.

I want to hear what you are passionate about. What is the cause near and dear to your heart that you believe will make the United States, or the world at large, a better place? How did you land on that cause? How do you continue the fight without growing calloused or weary? Feel free to bring over some wine and chat in person if you prefer. I would more than welcome these conversations! And if you don't live near me, pick a few friends and talk about it with them!

If you don't have that cause - my plea to you is this...look at the needs right around you. Trust me. They are there. Don't wait for it to become personal. Make it personal.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Living as an Extrovert in an Introverted World

That title seems backwards, doesn't it? Isn't the phrase - How to live as an INTROVERT in an EXTROVERT world? Only I don't think it's an extroverted world.

I've spent wasted way too much time Googling statistics on how many Introverts/Extroverts there are in the world. (In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice: "Like anyone could ever know that!")

I have had a realization lately that me - a RAGING Extrovert, has probably close to 98% introverted friends. Tell me how this makes sense? Not only that I would have mostly introverted friends, but also ....where are all the Extroverts?

So I did what any logical, statistic seeking person would do - I took my poll to Social Media. Between Instagram and Facebook, of the 2000+ people that COULD have answered, only 58 did. Of those 58...38 were Introverts, 10 were Extroverts, and 10 considered themselves the new addition to the bunch - "Ambivert". Which, if you've ever taken they Myers Briggs Personality Profile Test, I'm gonna guess those Ambiverts are NF's. I'm KIDDING, people!! Mostly. But for the record, spell check does not recognize the word, Ambivert. And in case you don't know what the word, Ambivert, means: a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features. Now, I feel the need to point out that MOST of my real life friends did not answer my poll. (I'm pretty sure they've blocked me.) I'm gonna throw in to that official count about 30 more Introverts and negative 3 Extroverts.

First of all, I think part of the problem in recognizing what side of the scale we lean to is an understanding of the words, Introvert and Extrovert. I am of the understanding that many people believe the word, Introvert, to mean someone who doesn't like being around people. Therefore an Extrovert  is someone who loves being around people. I suppose that is an okay definition, but it runs much deeper. For fear of boring you, I will shorten it. The two terms are really about where you derive your energy. Introverts need alone time to be recharged, and extroverts need people to be recharged. I'm over-simplifying it. You can Google it if you care. 

Like I said, recently I was surveying my real life friends and had a realization of how many of my friends are introverted. I just don't get this. You would think as an extrovert I would 1) be attracted to, and 2) attract other extroverts. Or maybe, as I've often joked with some of my severely introverted friends, that I attract introverted people because they know they won't have to actually talk in my presence. It's very safe for everyone. 

I was intrigued by the lack of extroverts responding to my little poll. Where are all the extroverts???!!! When it comes to social media, the only logical explanation was that they aren't ON social media to see my post. They are out doing what extroverts do best - being with people. I've also often thought that introverts tend to have the highest following, likes, hearts, whatever...on Social Media. My theory is because introverts are generally private people. So when they do post - the world listens. We all want to know what's happening behind those pulled curtains. Us Extroverts? We don't even own curtains. 

These are all generalizations. To further the stereotype, when we think of the word, introvert, we think of someone who doesn't like people - or at least being around them. We assume they are shy, and maybe even socially awkward. Standoff-ish and disconnected may be added to the list. As for extroverts, we think of them as the life of the party. Outgoing - even obnoxious at times. They are loud busy bodies who can't ever keep to themselves. (Have I offended everyone equally? K. Good.)

I know a lot of introverts who most people would disagree with the reality that they are introverts because, as according to Jen Hatmaker, they are "high-functioning introverts". Meaning they {gasp} like people. I know a few extroverts who I also have questioned their diagnosis. But only because even in their extroverted self, they pick a few close friends to re-fuel with while the rest of the world goes on believing they are an Introvert.   

Moving on to my point.

On an almost daily basis, I feel like I am "too much" for those in my life which is full of introverts. I fear I suck the life out of all of my friends, and therefore need to bounce from friend to friend to avoid doing so. (Such is the life of an extrovert living among introverts, I suppose.) I see the introvert/extrovert thing thrown out as behavioral reasoning almost daily. And I don't like it. Similar to all personality profiles - I don't like when we hide behind "that's just how I am". Because I don't think that is how we are designed to live least not fully.  When we use how we are "wired" as a means to live only for our own needs to be met, we miss out on community the way God has designed it.

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the the interests of others.

I'm not intending to attack anyone with this post. My hope is to encourage people to do just what it says in Philippians to do.... look to the interest of others. In doing so, I believe we will leave more fulfilled and our little circle of influence will feel more loved and valued.

I have a very introverted friend who, through conversation, we have been able to recognize the hurtful tendencies that introverts/extroverts can put on each other. I appreciate that. She has been able to voice that there are times she needs to pull away, but that she does in fact want to be a friend to me. And, I have been able to voice that I feel like I'm bleeding her dry, and that's an awful feeling. 

We all want to be pursued. Even extroverts....especially extroverts. That's hard to do when we are only looking out for ourselves. The introvert waits for the extrovert and the extrovert waits for ....well, anyone. But what if we shelved our "needs" and pursued one other with a desire to know and be known? To serve? Because God created us to live that way. I am not saying He created us all to be extroverts, I realize that could sound like that....but He did create us to know and be known, and to love, and to serve, and to lay our lives down for others......the list is LONG for how he created us to live, and it has very little to do with how he created US, but instead everything to do with DYING to US. What if we stopped trying to cling to, or hide behind a temperament or personality trait, and instead chose to step outside of what feels "normal" to us for the sake of loving someone else? Can you imagine that kind of community? I'm trying to.... 

I realize I never actually addressed how to live as an Extrovert in an Introverted World. Because, I don't know how. I thought the answer was in backing off of my introverted them their space. I don't know generally how that plays out for my introverted friends, but it can leave me feeling very lonely. Maybe me feeling lonely IS me laying my life down for my introverted friends? I don't know. If you Google how to live as an Introvert in an Extroverted world....there will be lots of advice. From what I've read, most of it tells introverts to just be them and not feel bad about it. (That was a very short and uninspiring paraphrase.) But I wonder where that leaves the Extroverts? Because I personally, have grown to believe that the danger of being an Extrovert means you are just needy. What a gross feeling. 

I'm rambling now. I would love to hear from Introverts AND Extroverts - how do you want to best be loved by the opposite temperament? And, I challenge you to answer that question NOT with: "I want them to let me be alone", or "I want them to be with me". I don't believe we live in an introverted OR extroverted world. We live in an image bearing world. We are all created in the image of God (whom I suppose would be the Original Ambivert??) - so how do we extend grace and love to those whose Image needs different things?

Discuss amongst yourselves....I'm all verklempt...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Be Still

Per Wikipedia: The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. 

In the world of Fight, Flight or Freeze....depending on the situation, I am either 100% fight or 100% flight. Freezing seems weak to me. An excuse can always be given for fighting or flighting, but freezing??? It's just not me. (No offense to you if freezing IS you...all three reactions are no good seeing how they are all avoidance anyway. I'm just saying why I'm not a freezer.)

At the beginning of each year, I pick a word (or five) for the year. 2015 my word(s) were Truth, Rest, Strength and Joy. 2015 is not a year I can claim victory over. I battled in all of these areas. Sometimes fighting for them, and other times trying to find the nearest Exit sign. I don't miss 2015. 

As 2016 rolled into existence, I found myself coming before the Lord, so weary, asking for my word for the year. I would scribble down some words, only to cross them off because they didn't seem right. The one word that I kept thinking would be my guidepost for the year was FIGHT. 2015 wasn't going to get the best of me! In the struggles of my health, my job, my marriage, my family, my ministry - I was ready to put on my big girl panties and fight! Flight was no longer an option.

But then this happened. I was reading in Deuteronomy (26:18-19) and this jumped out: 

18 And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. 19 He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.

Now, at risk of completely taking these verses out of context or twisting them into some prosperity theology, bear with me for a minute. What stood out to me was, 1) I'm a TREASURED possession. (Not that I live that truth, but true it is.) And 2) HE WILL SET YOU. (Duly noted, it does not say - Claw your way to the top, claw your way into the existence you deem, HE WILL SET me.)

I realized in that moment that I HAD been fighting. Scratch that, I had been striving. Maybe there is a difference. I had been striving to make my world the way I wanted it. To be the person I dreamed would be fulfilling. To be anything but content, joyful or even thankful with my current lot. The list is long, really.

And just like that - in an instance, my word FIGHT was replaced with BE STILL.

What???!!! No!!! You've got to be kidding me! Isn't being still the same thing as freezing? It's weak! It feels like surrender......

It feels like surrender.

Naturally, I fought this idea.

Until this past weekend that is, when I was at a retreat with millions of other women around the world. For the third year in a row, I have had the privilege of hosting a local IF:Gathering. One of the things I love about this weekend is the ability to glean from so many different women (and men this year) all in different places of their journey. Everyone is sure to leave the weekend with something that resonated with them! And resonate it did.

You could listen to the stories of hundreds of women who participated in this conference and probably hear hundreds of different themes. The theme I walked away with, however, was that God has placed me...he has set me. (Funny how that worked out, huh?) I am where he wants me, dealing with what he knew he had planned for me, and he is not asking me to make much of myself or my circumstances in the midst of it. And he is most certainly not asking me to flee it. Instead he was urging me again this past weekend to be still. To let him fight for me.

This makes absolutely no sense to me still, but I'm excited to figure it out let Him show me. I know I have a responsibility to still do things. To work diligently. To take my medicine and go to doctors appointments. To serve my church and my family. I do not believe that being still lets me off the hook of having to work or be faithful. Maybe it just has much more to do with a heart posture that accepts where he has set me, his treasured possession, and knowing full well that I cannot use my magic wand to manipulate life into the way I think it should be. Maybe it has more to do with truly believing that with every step I take in faith (and even in doubt), He has a plan for it. I guess I'll find out. But my prayer for this season is that I can get radically okay with my weakness. That instead of throwing punches or sprinting in the opposite direction of all that I am not okay with - I would just freeze.

Can you just imagine the rest that could be found when we actually let his strength manifest in our weakness? The rest that could come from putting down my ammunition and letting HIM fight for me??

I'm ready. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Since November.....

My last post was November 4, 2015. That is way too long to be gone from something I love so much. You'll need to bear with me on this one though. I'm not sure how much sense I will make. Please try to follow along. Let me explain.

If you have been around these parts for longer than half a second, you have probably heard me talk about my health woes over the past couple of years. I began running about 6 years ago. I fell in love with the sport, with the community. I was HEALTHY for the first time in my life. June 22, 2013 was my last race. Just six weeks prior I had completed my first and only full marathon. The next several months I spiraled fast and furious. My health was fleeting. I suppose all of our health is fleeting.  And despite my best efforts, I could not get it under control. I began seeing countless doctors and specialists to try and figure out what was wrong with me. Some previous spinal issues were the only thing any of us could pinpoint. I don't really need to rehash this story. I've blogged about it before. Many times. Most notably, February 19, 2014, I shared about how I was ready to embrace the pain. I couldn't stay numb. Well....I had no idea what was coming in the next two years.

My last half marathon - June 22, 2013

On November 5th, 2015 (the day after my last blog post) - I had a call from my doctor telling me that recent blood work revealed that I had Lyme Disease. Um. What? I don't recall ever being bitten by a tic in my life. Heck, I don't think I've ever even seen one! But that's what I had. And it explained everything. Back story, my chiropractor for YEARS had been asking me to be tested for Lyme Disease. I would smile and thank him politely and tell him exactly what I just told you - I have never been bit by a tic. In November, he knew I was heading in for some labs as I had taken yet another turn for the worse. He strongly encouraged me to request a test for Lyme (which somehow had NEVER been run in my many years of trying to navigate my random health issues), and to just get him off my back - I agreed. I'm so thankful I did. But to think of the results?? I feel so invaded! Stupid tic.

So Lyme Disease. What the heck is it? (Don't worry, this entire post isn't really about Lyme Disease...hang on...) Well, it mimics everything apparently. And from the list below, my Doctors had looked at everything (and so much more), except ALS. I was a mystery. A frustrated mystery.

Now that I know what I'm dealing with, the learning curve has been steep. I've taken in information everyday since November 5th about what this is, how it is effecting me and how to #killallthelyme. It honestly did my mind and heart so much good to just KNOW what I was dealing with. I've always felt like I could deal with anything that comes at me as long as I know what it is. Me and the unknown are not friends.

My Doctor immediately started me on medicine to begin to eradicate the bacteria. I also was able to get in to a Lyme Specialist about a month after my diagnosis. That's when the real fun started. See, during treatment for something like Lyme disease, a little phenomenon known as The Herxheimer Reaction sets in. The first few months of treatment have been Brutal (with a capital B). Unless you are a nerd and actually follow that link to read about what a Herxheimer Reaction is (Herxing for short) - let me just sum it up. Basically, every symptom I've ever had for the past 12 years (which is when I began having symptoms of this awful disease) have all returned all at once - and on steroids.

So what is Lyme TO ME? Well, over the past 12 years it has been a lot of things. But in the past three months....I just want to tell you a bit about where I've been, and why I haven't been here. Like I said, it's been every symptom I've ever had on steroids. I have had days on end where I can't turn my head. Heal pain that is so intense that I stand up and fall back down. Numbness and tingling down the entire left side of my body - making it difficult to sleep, hold things, walk for extended amounts of time, and type. Joint pain that makes me assume I'm 80. Muscle pain - scratch that, bone pain. Fatigue that fully warrants narcolepsy. (For real. One minute I'm standing, the next I better be near the couch or my bed or it will get ugly fast.) Simple tasks like showering and getting dressed in the morning leave me feeling more sore than running that marathon. I have tremors/spasms in my left arm that freak my kids out. Sometimes I like to "tremor" near the back of their head just for kicks. I have lymph nodes in my neck that look like a giant goiter. Thank God for #sweaterweather. And the one that has probably been the hardest for me to handle - cognitive. Several months before my diagnosis, I began telling Aaron I was worried I had early onset Alzheimer's. I would go to the grocery store and walk up and down every isle not remembering why I was there. I would leave with milk because we always need milk. But that was never really what I went for. There have been moments I couldn't remember how to get home. Thankfully I have a teen driver who is almost always with me. I will be talking and stop mid sentence not even remembering we were..... sorry...what are we talking about? I can't find words, and if I do find them, I can't get them out. Reading is VERY difficult, because the words form a big black blob instead of smooth sentences. It takes me 20 minutes to read and comprehend 5 sentences. I can barely get my thoughts out in a status update on Facebook. What I once would pop out in half a second now takes me 15 minutes of typing and re-reading to see if it makes sense. Most of the time I think it doesn't. And as for writing....something I LOVE to do...well, if you are still reading - you are understanding why I haven't been writing. It has taken me almost two hours to get this all out. I hate this.

So that's all. I don't want to talk anymore what Lyme is. I want to tell you my heart.  I shared this with some friends today....and because my brain can't do it again, I will just cut and paste....

I've generally managed my Dx well...until yesterday. I cried most of the day. 2.5 years ago I had enjoyed 3 years of being the HEALTHIEST I've ever been in my life. (Which is a huge deal for this girl who battled an eating disorder her entire life.) I was truly, genuinely healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally. I was running half marathons regularly, and pushed for a full Marathon. I was at a healthy weight. I had a thriving health business. Then within 3 months post marathon, I spiraled fast and furious. The next 2 years were spent trying to figure out what was wrong. Now I know. I just don't get how Lyme (which I've probably had for over 12 years) attacked so fast and when I was at my healthiest. Was it the stress of the marathon that brought it on? Stress of life? I don't know. But I miss my healthy self. I miss running. I miss being able to take a shower and get dressed in the morning without needing to take a 30 min rest break. I can't wait to return! As for today, I'm back to fighting. #lymewarrior 

As much as I have been thankful for a diagnosis, this has all been a little surreal. The emotional roller coaster over the past few years (and even still currently with some remaining strings waiting to be tied) has been more than I thought I could handle. But here I am. Still standing. I honestly feel like I'm just in survival mode. I have a family to take care of, a church to serve, a business to run....and at the end of each day - sleep welcomes me. All 10 hours of it. I don't understand what God has for me in this - and I don't believe I may ever know. But it is certainly forcing me to decide if I trust him with my life. He knew these days were coming. I'd be lying if I said I was fully okay with it. Like Jacob, I've wrestled. I'm still wrestling. And my limp is severe. And I know we aren't done yet. 

Here's the raw truth. I hate that I was at such a good place in my life (mentally, physically, etc) and it's gone now. I hate that I can't run, or bike, or walk the dogs, or walk longer than 10 minutes period. I hate that I can't write. I hate that I can't read. I hate that I can't take care of my family. I hate that I have to endure this (and that those around me have to endure me!). I know the right response is that in this life I will have trouble, and Jesus is no stranger to pain, and why should these things NOT happen to me....and I try to tell myself those things regularly. But I gotta be honest. Everyday for the past three months, it has not come easy to believe these things from the core of my being. I'm sad and angry. Come Lord Jesus, come. But equally at the core of my being I can fully say that I believe He loves me. And that matters most. 

I realize this was the most lame blog post I have ever written. And it's not entirely important. And why are you still reading? But I had to start somewhere, so this seemed logical. I'm going to try to write more frequently. I fear it will be a bunch of nonsense as this post has been - but writing brings me life and joy.  See you soon...