Friday, October 24, 2014

Day Twenty-Four: The Straw and the Camel's Back

There will come a day, in the midst of your unsettling and resettling and general change, when there will be a straw that will break the proverbial camel's back.

There will come a day when, once said straw has done its breaking, even doing "school" outside in the misting drizzle (sometimes fondly referred to as "mizzle") will not put a smile on your face.

A day when slight acquaintances will cheerily tell you that you look tired.

A day when everything and everyone irritates you, especially the people you love the most.

Most of the time, the straw will be something relatively small. Just one more change in a whole litany of changes, but you will find that you just. can't. handle. any. more.

In my case, the change was my 9 month old twins deciding that one nap was more their style than two.


Not that big of a deal.

Maybe a change for the better.

But today: the straw that broke the back of my momentous race towards stability and grounded-ness.

I admitted defeat. I felt worn and exhausted and beaten down, and everyone could see it.

Then we had guests for dinner, and they played with our children and told stories that mattered and listened to our hearts and shared laughter and a happy serving of non-Whole30 approved apple crisp--and suddenly, I felt like I could face tomorrow and all my many, many children again.

I don't know what the straw will be that will break your camel's back. And I don't know what your spiritual equivalent of soul-cheering dinner guests is either. But I know this:

Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:22-23

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All the cool kids are doing it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day Twenty-Three: Sibling Support

I've spent most of today (off and on) texting with my sisters. Technically, WhatsApping with Amanda, but you get the point. They are awesome, and I like them. The truth is that growing up the way we did, we learned early on that the only constants in our lives were each other, and we made our sisterhood count.

I'm the pudgy one up front.

Sure, there were bumps in the road. But, you know, we never fought. We never engaged in petty rivalry. We never stole each other's books and then wrote our names in them and pretended they were ours. We always treated each other with the upmost love and respect.

Oh wait... Never mind.

This picture says a lot about our personalities.

But the thing was, we had each other's back. I knew if I ever needed them, they'd be there for me, and vice versa. They were my best friends, still are, even when only we see each other once a year. Even when there are other friends who maybe understand our current seasons of life better (pastor's wives who relate to Joanna or military spouses who connect with me or professional nomads who understand Amanda). Even when we forget to respond to emails promptly or cop out on sending birthday packages to deepest, darkest Africa.

We're it for each other.

I think this was Joanna's "bachelorette" party.
Her request was a sister's date, plus Mom.

So when I talk to the boys (and Bee) about the importance of sibling friendships, I know what I'm talking about.

When I tell them that our family has to be a team, I understand what that really means.

When I encourage the closeness of their relationships, it's because I know they're going to need that too.

I know that Littles, Tiny, Bruiser, and Bee are going to be it for each other.

Best Maid and Matron of Honour ever. 

And then I know that years from now, they're going to learn the same lesson I had to: that no matter how close you are with your siblings, no matter how wonderful they are, there will come a season when they will be far away and you're going to have to find support elsewhere, which is where Jesus comes in.

Jo flew up to see me the first weekend after Josh deployed.
Amanda picked her up at the airport
and they surprised me.
I cried.
It was the last week Joanna was allowed to fly.

Seasons of change strip everything away, even sometimes the ones who are it for us. That's why those transition periods are so hard. They would be hard anyway, because change is tough (I'm pretty sure we've covered that), but it's made even more challenging by the fact that our support system typically gets destabilized.

So when you find those people who weather the storm of the in between with you, hold on to them. Let them be Christ for you. Let them lead you to Christ in the between, since He's the only one who will truly never leave you or forsake you.

And those people may not always be your sisters. For me it is, plus the Man and a couple other incredible friends, but the important thing is that they are people who become constants in your life.

The day I got home from the hospital with Littles.
That's my pudgy nephew Amanda's holding.
And look how legitimately little Little is!

That way, when you're hours away from them, and your husband deploys for the first time while you're pregnant with your first kid, you have surprise visitors show up in the form of an even-more-pregnant-than-you oldest sister and a must-have-pizza-now middle sister.

That way, when you're going through your second deployment and get put on twin-nant bed rest, you have one sister fly in from Africa to give you an extra pair of hands and another sister to sacrifice time with Mom so that you don't go into labour mommy-less.

That way, when you're in a new place and still getting your feet under you, you can spend all morning WhatsApping one sister and all evening texting the other.

Find those people who are it for you. And thank God for them every day. They are His gift to you.

Find the rest here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day Twenty-Two: Tired

The second bathroom didn't get cleaned today. All the cleaning supplies are sitting on the sink waiting for me, and there's an empty spot on my To Do list that is just begging for a check mark. This would bother me except I'm too tired to drag myself off the couch and go back upstairs to clean.

That, and I have the hiccups, and hiccups are the worst.

While we're confessing things, I made it one day on the Whole30. In our home, it shall now be referred to as Marian's Whole1. I got out of bed this morning after being up a good portion of the night with Bruiser and just about collapsed on the floor. I was shaking uncontrollably and literally broke out in a cold sweat as I tried to get down the stairs for some serious carbs. Honestly, I think my body was being a bit of a drama queen, but evidently nursing twins and doing the Whole30 do not a good combination make.

There is a point to this. Hang in there.

Really, you should be able to guess the point. Because if yesterday I talked about how change is painful, the obvious follow up is this: change is TIRING.

Being in a season of transition will plain wear you out.

Let's stay on the honest train, having twins will leave you with more than a few sleepless nights. Then moving and getting settled: also exhausting. Making new friends? Emotionally wearing. Then throw in a 31 day writing challenge, revamping our eating program, and starting Littles in pre-K (the faux-homeschool version--faux-school?) and I have about twenty minutes of spare time a day during which time I'm trying to squeeze in a shower because no one else in the family wants to live with un-showered me.

Today I showered while bleaching the bathtub simultaneously (multitasking may or may not be my middle name). This should buy me an extra five minutes later in the evening.

So. Yes. Tiring. And let me drive home the point: transition is taxing even without twins etc. Starting something new (or ending something old) is just plain tiring.

Case in point, as a foot loose and fancy free junior in college, I did a semester of study abroad in England. Keep in mind: I'd lived overseas before. I'd visited England before. I didn't have to learn a new language. I had no kids or significant other to drag along (neither did I have a lot of possessions to weigh me down. But I'm pretty sure that I took a nap every single day for the first month I was there (unless I was traveling, which doesn't count).

You know what's great, though, about being tired from transition?

It's okay! And it's totally normal! So you're not weird at all if you start a napping habit. At least, that's what I tell myself.

What I'm saying is, when we're in seasons of change, why don't we cut ourselves some slack?

Understand that it's tiring, and if right now is a really bad time to subsist on fruits, vegetables, and protein, eat a carb or two and forgive yourself the sugar you put in your coffee. Eat as healthy as you can and leave it at that.

Understand that it's wearing, and if you need to take a quick nap, let the kids build an epic train track and go lie down for a few minutes. They should all still be alive and in one piece when you get back.

Understand that it's just plain exhausting, and leave the second bathroom for tomorrow. That ring in the tub isn't going anywhere.

Trust me, there are times to hold yourself to a rigidly high standard and then there are times of stressful, exhausting change. Don't get the two mixed up.

So cheery and the sun wasn't even up yet.
And I hadn't even had my coffee.
There should be laws against that.

One of my favourite Bible stories is in 1 Kings 19. Elijah is running from Jezebel who has just killed off the prophets of God and is leveling death threats against Elijah. He escapes into the desert and collapses, telling God that he's ready to die now, and then falls asleep. God sends an angel with some food who wakes him up after a little while, delivers the food, and lets Elijah fall back to sleep. After some time, the angel comes back with more food, Elijah eats, and then walks for 40 days and 40 nights before falling asleep again, this time in a cave. When he wakes up, he has the famous encounter with God where God isn't in the wind or the earthquake or the fire but in the gentle whisper.

You know what I really love about that story, aside from the fact that Elijah doesn't do things by halves? God knew Elijah was dead tired, and He fed him and let him sleep.

God knows we are tired, and He is inviting us to rest.

Yes, there is so much on your plate. Trust me, I get that. The floor needs to be swept and the laundry needs to be put away and now the kids are awake and your hair desperately needs to be washed and you can't remember the last time you cut your fingernails (they're starting to look like your own personal set of cooking knives) and dinner needs to get started and someone just scraped their knee and now it's time to go meet a new friend and somehow pull it together so that maybe they'll like us…and it never stops.

God knows we are tired. He knows. And He's inviting us to eat some bread baked over coals (see, Whole30? God approves of carbs!) and drink some cold water and get. some. sleep.

The season you are in right now is tiring. That's its nature. Give yourself some grace, a slice of bread, and a nap. It's just a season. It doesn't last forever.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day Twenty-One: Bee Stings

I got stung by a bee today. No, not this one:

And actually it was several bees stinging me, not just one. I've never been stung by a bee before, so it was an exciting first time experience. Unfortunately, in this case, I mean "exciting" in the negative sense, not the positive. But, silver lining: none of the kids got stung.

I was stung by the aforementioned evil bees because, I assume, the kids and I ate oranges at lunch and I didn't wash my hands afterwards. All that lingering orange juice must have been too much for those sucky stingers to resist.

I also ate this salad at lunch because I'm morally supporting the Man by doing the whole30:

That's not an important part of the story, though. Back to the important part of the story, you should know that I was only at the bee-infested playground because I was meeting up with a neighbor because this building relationships thing is evidently super important.

Okay, now that you have that long and incredibly exciting (this time in the positive sense, not the negative) backstory, I'll make my succinct and extremely obvious point.

When we enter into seasons of change in our life (whether by choice or by chance), there will be pain--most if it will be worse than bee stings--because it is impossible to go through the between without some form of discomfort.

You don't move from one place to another without a few broken plates (or in my case, a broken wreath). You don't start a new job without the discomfort of new relationships and that sinking feeling that you're never going to figure out your new duties. You don't revamp your workout without sore muscles or start a new eating plan without a sugar crash or grumbling belly (Whole30 may break me--where are my carbs, people?!). You don't start a marriage or a family without some relational bumps in the road.

Change is painful.

It's putting yourself out there, risking everything, with the hope that once you get through that season of between, things will be better on the other side. 

Will they be? Who knows. We hope so. 

Regardless, you will be. You will be stronger, wiser, gentler because of the challenges you've faced and the pain you've endured.

And who knows, maybe those bee stings will help you be a little more sympathetic down the line when someone else gets stung.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Day Twenty: On Repeat

I'm going to explore my future here as a professional broken record. Bear with me.

Today I got stuck on the phone with AT&T for 45 minutes only to get kicked off the phone right before I could pay our bill--but while I was listening to really bad hold music, I saw a hummingbird (and the ocean)!

Today, in spite of two colour catchers (two!), I somehow dyed an entire load of laundry purple--but at least we now have some new cleaning rags and most of the laundry is done. Ish. Okay, there's still a load in the dryer. Fine, be that way.

Today, I had culture shock by going to a real grocery store with a real produce section for the first time in years--but our fridge is full of wonderful fresh goodness (even if our wallets are a little bit lighter).

Today, one of the toilets clogged and I discovered it after I'd already loaded the twins into the stroller and sent the kids out to the garage. It was mass chaos by the time I got out there--but at least our toilet is clean now. Relatively.

Today, Bee refused to swing--but she laughed hysterically going down the slide. 

Tiny growled and screamed--but apologized so very politely (with snuggles). 

Bruiser bullied his sister--but demonstrated some killer eye-crossing while trying to look at his sippy and drink at the same time.

Littles had a mini-meltdown--but finished his first day of homeschooling with success, happiness, and an impromptu outdoor science lesson. 

And the point, dear friends, is this: with every life change, whether the big or the small, there are good things and bad. 

But always, always, always, we get to choose what we pay attention to. 

I'm not saying sweep all the bad things under the rug--I miss the spray nozzle from our old kitchen and being squadron-less feels weird and why do friendships take so long to deepen?!?--but while we acknowledge the bad, we choose to focus on the good.

At the end of today, I'm going to just say over and over again: hummingbird, clean (and purple!) laundry, beautiful fruits and veggies, unclogged toilet, pudgy legs on the slide, little boy snuggles, cross-eyed baby, monarch butterfly and day one of homeschooling done! 

More of the good stuff

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day Nineteen: Some Sunday Silliness

On the first day of unpacking, the movers gave to me…

...a decimated front door wreath!

On the second day of unpacking, the movers gave to me…

...a moldy bag of onions and a decimated front door wreath!

On the third day of unpacking, the movers gave to me…

…a chipped mosaic table, a moldy bag of onions, and a decimated front door wreath!

On the fourth day of unpacking, the movers gave to me…

…lots of dust to sweep up, a chipped mosaic table, a moldy bag of onions, and a decimated front door wreath!

On the fifth day of unpacking, the movers came on back…

…picked up the empty boxes and told me to stay hydrated because we were having an 80 degree heat wave (whoo!) and something-something-something and a decimated front door wreath!

Now wait until after Thanksgiving to do any more Christmas carol related singing!

What are you looking at?
Our regularly scheduled program will return tomorrow. Aren't you glad you came by the blog today?

They aren't all this ridiculous.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day Eighteen: Home

I've been raiding our local library, and this week enjoyed Kate DiCamillo's Flora & Ulysses. It was a sweet and quirky book, and it got me thinking more about home…and what home means, especially when we're between places and relationships and jobs. Especially, perhaps, when we're between different versions of ourselves.

I don't want to write about the book (but I loved it, and you will too). I just want to say this, to those of us in between right now:

It's okay to feel unmoored and lost and nameless in this time. It's okay. Who you are right now is okay.

Because what if "home" was not so much a place or a relationship or a job but a sense of being, a knowing of ourselves and our place in the world?

And what if, instead of rushing through the between to get to the other side, to get to "settled" and "stable" and "comfortable", we accepted that this time is moving us from one version of ourselves to the next?

What if we let "home" develop within us as we wait for this new self to blossom into fruition?

What if we allowed ourselves the grace to hold on to those who are "home" to us, the ones who know our hearts, the ones who call us by name? What if we held on without apology, acknowledging our need for them?

What if we were honest? About the good and the bad, acknowledging that someone else may be in the between right now and need our words to speak into their lives from our place of uprootedness to theirs?

Because it's okay. It's okay to not feel ourselves yet. We are in the between times. In many ways, we are, right now, the between itself. Between houses. Between friends. Between stages in our lives. Between jobs. Between churches.

Between the ending of something and the beginning of something else.

Between the introduction and the first chapter.

Between knowing who we were and knowing who we're becoming.

It's okay.

As we are in the between, may we find those who are home to us, even if they are half a world away, and invite them into the changing space that we occupy and let them love us and let them be between with us so that no matter how long it takes, this in between, this rearranging of soul and space and spirit, we rest in the home that they are for us.

Because at the heart of the matter, we all just want to be called by name and we all want to go home.

And the secret is: we're already on the way home, no matter how long it takes, and Someone knows your name.

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