START WITH WHY...
A friend recommended a book to me entitled Start With Why. I'll be honest, I love the title! (although I still have not read the book) Still, I wanted to ponder the why of this blog.
I'm 51 years old, and it's a reality that is becoming larger and larger – I'm actually dying. Not in the way some of my friends and family have died – via cancer or ALS or congestive heart failure - although I am no longer naïve enough to think those things couldn't happen to me. I'm dying in the way all humanity does.
It's obvious in many ways. My body is screaming this truth via hot flashes, missed cycles, pulled muscles, insomnia, and a moodiness that hasn't been experienced since puberty. My gray hairs are coming in at an alarming rate – I'm sort of... sagging. My stamina certainly isn't what it used to be.
The young men with whom I've done life the last 19 years are no longer homeschooled. My days are more often spent alone than with a full house...
My favorite author, Ann Voskamp, has something to say about this in her profound, life-changing book The Broken Way:
“...there is no growth without change, no change without surrender, no surrender without wound – no abundance without breaking. Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of a deeper growth.” (p. 26)
“All I can think is, “Unless a grain of wheat falls in to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
There's a way to multiply your life. You let every kernel die.” (p. 61)
What a new way of thinking. Thinking of the end as a beginning.
One of our pastors encouraged us to think of our life from the end – what would we want people to say about us at our funeral? What type of life would we want to have lived? He suggested that thoughts such as these were the best way of moving forward.
Life as I know it is not only dying physically, but emotionally as well. It's dying to a way of life I have lived for nearly 2 decades.
Like a seed falling off my sunflowers or hollyhocks – life as I know it is going into the cold earth – what will be coming up?
And although what I feel and experience is passing away – what of eternity? What of life beyond this life? The fact that these tangible experiences are going away makes the thought of eternity that much sweeter – more real, closer...
Will I choose a life of gratitude today? A life of anticipation? Trying new things? Not only different treatments and methods for controlling my physical symptoms, but new ways of living – new experiences? Will I dare to try? Or will I stay hidden? Self-protecting? Nursing my wounds in self pity?
The Broken Way suggests the way of healing comes through pouring out my life for others – the way Jesus does in the Bible. What does that even look like?
Writing is healing for me. It is the way I process my thoughts. It takes the chaos of what goes on in my head and makes order of it.
I love reading! I love learning new things -
And so the “Why” of this blog is that I am trying something new in putting my thoughts out there for others to read in hopes that someone may respond and write back, and we can all learn from one another. A virtual community if you will.
Many of the blogs I have seen are for young moms. Those years are behind me now, and I am needing the fellowship of more seasoned women. How do you deal with change? What books and thoughts have helped you to move forward? Is your life transitioning? If so, from what to what?
If you were a stay-at-home mom – how did you deal with the loss of your kids? “Raising” yourself out of a job?!
So I have begun to write for this blog, and tomorrow I begin a new job as a nanny. My charges are 3 rambunctious kiddos ages 2 to 6. It is only one day a week – an excellent start for a new adventure!
We got a puppy! That has been a bundle of life and energy...
We are all dying, looking toward eternity, all changing, and all beginning anew - .
It sounds like it could be an adventure...
THE NEW ME:
Floating tumbleweeds, the wake from a boat rippling further and further out, assorted waterfowl bobbing on the current.
Then there’s finding my way on unfamiliar freeways, swimming in the hotel pool alone, exploring a beautiful mall…
There is a common thread to these seemingly unconnected events – beauty, the unknown, adventure?
Six months ago, I was nervous to drive 45 minutes by myself to visit a friend. The past 2 days I have driven miles over unfamiliar city roads.
I never want to forget this…
My husband had a work-related training to attend in another city, so I thought I would tag along – sans kids. The kids are all working now, the “babies,” our twins, ready to turn 16 in just 3 days. The oldest? 19 years old and working as well.
I remember these types of trips 10 years ago. My husband would go off to a training and the boys and I would go along, exploring a new city, swimming in the hotel pool, napping, watching cable television! We would meet up with my husband in the evenings and go out to a fun dinner. Obviously, those days are over.
Yesterday I was in our hotel room resting. And it dawned on me that I could do that at home! It was time to get myself down to the pool and see how it was going by myself. This was a first!
I made it to the pool and spotted an elderly couple sitting under the shade of a table umbrella. There was a lounge chair near them – that looked safe! I went and camped out near this innocuous-looking couple and took out my craft bag in hopes I would look busy! My elderly pool neighbor was busy on her electronic device – the irony of that situation was not lost on me… The 51-year-old was crocheting – the 70 something was scrolling on her phone and tablet! I never was one for technology…
But I got hot! Really hot! So, it was time to get in the water. I did! And I met a nice friend. A sweet 4-year-old girl and I got to chatting. She was so genuine! I told her about my family, and she couldn’t believe I didn’t have any girls! 3 boys?!! She suggested I try again! Maybe I would have a girl! I told her I was old, way too old to have another baby! She was curious. “How old?” I said, “I’m 51…”
There was no gasp, no looking away – just friendliness. We were happy to be together!!
Not too long after this, I could feel my legs starting to burn and on further inspection, a glowing red reflected from my calves – time to call this adventure a success!!
I had dropped my husband off at his class, but I knew there had to be an easier, closer way to get there. I had taken my son’s laptop with me (he offered.) And after some research – there was indeed a closer way! I tried it on my next trip to his training site – and it worked! It included many lane changes, two round-a-bouts, and 2 different freeways… But I DID IT!
Our hotel offers free bicycles to guests. Yes, you guessed it. I’m going to try that as well… Later? I’m going to the beautiful area mall by myself again – to explore and shop – ALONE!
The beautiful thing is, I’m not as afraid anymore. I can do these things alone – and it’s still fun!
People are still kind (in fact, while on the unfamiliar freeway this morning – a woman let me in! I waved like crazy – I hope she saw my enthusiastic thanks!!)
I’m so thankful for this opportunity to push myself. To try something new. To do more of life on my own…
In today’s world of working women, this story will seem antiquated. Pathetic. But I know we have something in common. Fear of the unknown. New challenges.
I’m a college graduate. In fact – before marrying – I traveled the world. Yes, I studied abroad. I visited friends across the country – all alone. Then life happened. I married a great guy – and until I had my first child, I worked as well.
Then I stayed home with my brown-eyed boy – and life revolved around him – then 3 years later his twin brothers. We homeschooled, we moved to property in the woods (my “Little House in the Big Woods.”) Life was comfortable…
And then it wasn’t. Because the kids grew up! In our state, qualifying teenagers can start college at 16 – something all my kids have or are doing. I have literally worked myself out of a job. Success, right?! Confident young men, kind, responsible…
Which leads my back to this hotel room, looking over a beautiful river. I am watching floating tumbleweeds, pelicans! I see boaters and waterfowl. I’m a little adrift as well. But not nearly as much as before I left for this adventure.
What adventure awaits you?
AND THEN THERE WAS BARNEY
Twenty-five years ago when I was dating my then boyfriend, I worried his dog wouldn't like me. He had a beautiful husky. This lover of the outdoors mountain man came complete with a striking dog – adorned with silver fur and blue eyes – striking in every way. She was well-trained, though certainly independent by nature. Guess what? She liked me! And that boyfriend eventually became my husband...
Our husky never took to our brown-eyed baby boy, however. And that dislike and a move across the state necessitated that we rehome her. Since then, we have been without a dog. We either did not feel we lived in a place that was fair to have a dog (lack of space) or the time to really commit to training and loving a dog as we thought it should be cared for.
Until last Saturday. Don't get me wrong – it wasn't an impulsive decision...exactly. We have looked, wondered, talked about getting a puppy for years. When is the right time to get a dog? What kind of dog? What goals should we have for our dog? And the conversation was always just that...conversation.
The search had perhaps upped a bit, however, when Mike and saw an interesting ad for puppies in a local paper. This family had a litter of pure-bred labradors. The dad was an excellent retriever and loved hunting (something that fit in well with our family tribe.) They had one male left, was I still interested? ...Was I?
I had not wanted to drive the two and a half hours one way to meet the parents and pick him out, but honestly, who can pick out a puppy anyway? They are all darling and cuddly and cute and desirable.
My husband was on his way to bow hunt for the day – he encouraged me that the decision was up to me – I would be the primary care giver. Was I ready for it?
I decided I would try it – sure, why not? Why wasn't I ready for it? The kids are nearly grown, I only have plans for working part-time anyway – surely the kids will help some, right? So – one of my 16 year old twins and I went for it and drove 2 hours to get the last puppy – and immediately we knew his name was “Barney.” We had talked about names – and it's interesting how a name we'd picked before we even knew the pup fit perfectly!
That said, I'm not going to lie. Barney's been with us 4 days now and it hasn't all been sunshine and roses.
I often struggle with insomnia – and this was also going on this week. Barney was peeing on the living room rug at an alarming rate, chewing on cords, basically going nutso – while we all tried to remain calm, re-direct, and train the best we could.
He's on a schedule now – and though whimpers sometimes – he is content to be in our presence. He is also getting brave enough to be alone sometimes. He sleeps well at night for sure! I take him out in the wee hours of the morning - but that's it! And those accidents – we are all managing them better. He is off the carpet now - and we have figured out his routines and rhythms better. He is even beginning to learn basic commands. As I write this – he is sleeping soundly on my lap.
But I am still having doubts. Was it the right time? Am I well suited for Barney? Will I be able to train him – not only so that he doesn't annoy the daylights out of everyone around him – but so that he is a happy, self-controlled canine. Can we really afford him? Husband was right – I am definitely the primary care giver.
Everyone else is busy (3 teenagers) and Mike works full-time... How will Barney do if I'm gone a day or 2 a week?
If we're not right for Barney – now is the time to re-home him. He is beautiful, sweet, and highly cute. It makes him desirable! People love puppies! I don't want to wait too long...
How do I know?
SEPTIC SYSTEM TO SUNFLOWERS??!
If you live in the country, there is most likely a piece of country life you choose to ignore but pray never fails... your septic system. We all like to take showers, wash dishes, and flush toilets without much thought, right? Much to our dismay, last fall our septic system of over fifty years failed! She had a long and faithful existence – and needed to be replaced.
It was nearing winter in the Inland Northwest, which means snow and freezing temperatures were just around the corner. We were under a time crunch. Could a new system be designed? Approved? Installed? Inspected? And up and running before the holidays?
After weeks of bailing water, rationing water, and counting the drops of water going down the drain – the big equipment arrived! The job was under way.
When I say, “Big equipment” I mean “BIG equipment!!” Not your typical garden tractor for this job. Our garden fence was ripped out, our apple trees were ripped out, a mountain of gravel was the new view out our dining room window – but the task was accomplished by the Thanksgiving Holiday – an extra blessing to count on the day of Thanks-giving, to be sure.
But what of our garden?! Now it was a pile of rocks otherwise known as a drain field?! Nothing too redemptive about that – except it being one of the prices to pay for modern conveniences. However, all that big equipment unknowingly did a little gardening for us.
Fall turned to winter, then spring – and while walking past the rocks on our new drain field, I noticed something that didn't look like a weed. What?! A “zucchini” plant?! As it turns out – there were many many “zucchini” plants – I was so excited!
Interestingly, the so called “zucchini” began turning their little faces to the sun – hmmmmm. That was very “un-zucchini” like – they must be... Sunflowers!! I had always wanted a sunflower field, and now the little flowers were coming up everywhere! Could it be?! There were far more sunflowers than I had ever ever actually planted around our 6 acres! I needed to pull some out there were so many! I was afraid they were going to choke one another out... The big equipment must have helped "plant" some volunteer sunflower seeds!
Now it is summer, and my first sunflower is beginning to bloom. I have taken to calling my sunflower field “the choir” because their faces are always turning to the sun, their "conductor." They are a daily reminder that while life is not always predictable, it is certainly redemptive. We were not given “lemons” in which to make “lemonade.” No, we were given a new septic system – which gave us sunflowers! Surely, just as sweet a gift...
ARE WE SO AFRAID OF FAILURE, WE FAIL TO LIVE? - Laura Story
This safe place of writing has been elusive the last months.
We were slammed with a family emergency concerning one of our kids. I began my journey of working outside of the home. The holidays happened, and while I thoroughly enjoy the chaos of 3 young men always around, it doesn't leave much space for quiet and reflection.
Fast forward to January... And my mind is once again pondering and needing to make sense of my thoughts and happenings.
While I've mostly adjusted to my 11 hours of working a week (all on one day), I knew instinctively that I was in a “honeymoon phase.” That as wonderful as my employers were, something would come up that needed to be addressed, dealt with... confronted.
May I simply say I hate confrontation. Hate is perhaps not a strong enough word to address this circumstance. Confrontation scares me. “Am I thinking about this correctly?” is always one of my first self-doubting questions. “How should I deal with this issue?” “Do I have the right motives for dealing with this?” “What will those I am confronting think?” “Is this issue even worthy of confrontation?” And then I began obsessing about what most likely was a very small issue, making it into a much larger one.
I internalize. No, this is not a healthy way of processing, but I can't tackle all my vices at once...
So, once having realized my concerns may have some legitimacy, I asked my husband what he thought. How should I deal with this? He said, “Pick your battles.” Yikes! Back to self doubt. “Was I actually picking a worthy issue to confront?”
My parents were beautiful people. Hard working and kind. They really were terrific parents! That said, I never actually witnessed them confronting one another. Looking back, I remember distinctly one breakfast where I sat at the table looking from one to the other – not a word was spoken between them. I'm not sure they even looked at one another. This was highly unusual. I know now it was a “cold war” of sorts... their way of not discussing whatever it was that was difficult for them. I assume they worked it out in their way because things were quickly back to normal.
I observed these non-confrontational behaviors throughout my growing up years. And as I grew into adulthood I realize I didn't have many skills in this area. (none.)
Fast forward to married life. On the cusp of our silver wedding anniversary, I reflect on times confrontation was necessary – on both sides. Sometimes it was met with hostility, other times it was met with humility. Eventually, it proved healthy for us. We grew in some way. At times we saw the problem was larger than we could handle, and we sought help outside of our relationship. We now look back on those times as holy. We certainly don't want to repeat where we were! And we take measures to assure we don't. So although uncomfortable, confrontation in marriage is not impossible – there is a level of trust that makes it safe.
But with my employer? Yes, they are kind. Yes, they seem like reasonable people. But I still wasn't sure. I think it all boiled down to whether or not the issue that was concerning to me was really worthy of confrontation.
I did it.
While I was walking. I do my best thinking while writing and walking. So – while out on one of my January “slogs” through the slush, I called my employer and asked if we could talk. And I poured out my concerns in as thoughtful and humble a way as I could muster and...
She understood! She agreed with me! She expressed gratitude for my communicating with her!
In short, it went beautifully.
I want to be clear. I am not so naïve as to think that all confrontation ends as well. I know it doesn't because I have also been a part of that type of interaction... (Memories of these still sting, mind you.) Perhaps that added to my terror of confronting this time.
I lost sleep over this! I obsessed over this. When all it required was one simple phone call. Which leads me to wonder...
“Are we so afraid of failure we fail to live?” If I had not made that phone call, I would still be obsessing most likely. Failing to really live. And yet, making the phone call freed me to think clearly again. Where else am I not really living? Where else do my fears have me locked in a box?
I shared this quote with someone and he said, “Yes, but how does one risk responsibly?” That's fair. It's easy for me to risk a job when we are using the money to help out our retirement fund. We don't need this money for food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc. What then? So – what's the balance between risking failure and being trapped by our fears to letting them go and living more fully? I'm not sure I have the answer to that...
But I pray we can encourage one another to really live. To say yes more. To love better. To confront when needed... A whole beautiful world, a new year, a new decade awaits.
Webster's defines retire as “1. to withdraw to a secluded place 2. to go to bed 3. to retreat, as in battle 4. to give up one's work, business, etc., esp. because of age”
For years we have been considering and planning for...retirement. A change in routine, a withdrawing from our present schedules and my husband's present employment, a chance for a new adventure – all of this is what we think of as “retirement.”
To us, withdrawing to a secluded place sounds wonderful! Of course, going to bed is one of my favorite times of day. Retirement in this sense really does feel as if we are retreating from a battle of sorts – and yes, we are giving up the current line of work because of our age.
All that to say, I think a word I like better to express this approaching season is to reform... Webster's defines this in verb form as, “to form again.” I would like to “form again” a life that looks a little different from our current one.
In the past, we made our decisions based on what would be best for our family. My husband chose a career that would allow him to be available and “all in” as a parent to our 3 sons. We chose a location based on the opportunities it gave us to own a home and to provide family-type activities for our kids. We chose our church because we not only believed as they did, but it provided an extended family for us! A place of belonging... We chose homeschooling because the lifestyle worked for us.
We are now in transition! We are...reforming, forming again. Some would say we are nearing “retirement.” Not quite there, but close.
What questions should we be asking? Are we financially prepared? According to our financial adviser we are right on track. Are we spiritually prepared? Are we mentally prepared? Physically? Emotionally? What is the state of our relationship with one another?
While we were at our church's annual meeting today, we sat with dear friends. The gentleman had retired just this year from teaching – and he shared with us how he and his wife felt a little like newlyweds, adjusting to one another all over again. He said there had been tension. At one point, (or more) he had to tell his wife, “I'm not going anywhere!”
I loved his transparency! I love that they are figuring it out. Is there some way we can prepare for that? Discover new hobbies together? Find new opportunities for ministries? New ways of giving to others?
I read just today how dreams die, but as God raised Lazarus from the dead as recorded in the Bible, He can also cause dreams to resurrect. All on His time schedule. Are there dreams which have died that will be resurrected? I want to be mindful of this.
I know it's not quite time to be “reformed” yet. But I'm having a great time considering what it may look like and preparing as best I can for it.