Monday, October 15, 2018

Avoiding a Hagar Moment

Waiting is hard.

Have you ever noticed that when you're waiting on direction from God, His GPS often leads us onto out of the way roads, up and down hills, and to places that seem like "you have arrived" only to realize it was only a short side trip?

Yeah, me too!

In the past,(and sometimes the very not so distant past!), I have been known to take that first step of God's direction very well....and then I assume I know exactly where I'm going, shut off God's GPS, and just drive.

As you can imagine, it never ends all that well.

Now that I'm a little "older" and have misused God's GPS time and time(and time and time and time...well, you get the picture!) again, I have finally started to try and pay attention to ALL of His directions in regards to whatever topic I'm seeking His guidance on at the moment. Regardless of how His plans align with my plans(umm..almost never!), I try very hard to stay patient and wait for the next "turn right here" to come to the screen of my heart. Then there's the "issue" of timing. I try, often unsuccessfully, to not complain about how.very.long this trip seems to be taking! Being patient and trusting in God's timing is so not easy sometimes!

I read those stories about the Israelites wandering around in the desert and, as much as I want to believe otherwise, that totally would have been me! I would have been complaining and whining through the wilderness despite seeing so many amazing miracles that God worked!

I know in my head and heart that waiting on God and following His plans will work out so much better for me. Since I've had so many experiences in the past testing out this theory in a negative way, I'm much better at recognizing an opportunity to be patient and trust in God's timing in my life. It's still really hard! I still tend to be a "see a problem, make a plan, fix the problem as quickly as possible" kind of person. As I said before, God's timing generally looks a lot different than mine!

I've had too many "Hagar moments" in my life. What does that mean? Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah? While Abraham was still Abram and his wife was still Sarai, God made a covenant with him and promised that he would have a son and his descendants would be like the stars in the sky.(Genesis 15; 4-5) Abram and Sarai were pretty old. And Sarai didn't conceive right away after God gave Abram the promise. So Sarai decided to "help" God with His timing. Sarai gave her maid, Hagar, to Abram thinking this would be the way he would get a son. And while Hagar did bear Abram's son, Ishmael, that was not God's plan and caused a whole lot of stress and hurt.(see Genesis 16-18) 

So a "Hagar Moment" is when I try and "help" God with His timing in something in my life...or those close to me...when God has shown me the first couple directions(or maybe even just one direction!) on a path He wants me to take. And just like the story of Hagar, it ends up causing a whole lot of stress and hurt that I could have saved myself from if I had only remained patient and waited for God's next direction instead of trying to figure it out on my own.

Let's just say I've been a slow learner!

But I am determined to do better! I now recognize God's GPS a little more clearly. And God has used all my mistakes to teach me more about patience and fortitude. When I'm tempted to try and find a short cut, I remind myself that things never work to my advantage when I try to blaze the trail and I keep returning my gaze to God and renew my desire to wait on Him...and pray for the grace of patience in the waiting!

Currently, I'm avoiding Hagar moments in my search for direction in my new season of life as a mom of school age children and young adults who are becoming independent human beings. My kids need me in different ways now than they used to. There is a lot of joy in this new stage of life. With two engaged sons we have the exciting times of wedding planning and future grandchildren to occupy our thoughts. Since our youngest kids are 6 and 9, everyone is much more independent with self care. We have been diaper free for quite a while. I would like to say I sleep through the night, but Luke tends to have nightmares(#overactive imagination) so I still find myself woken up most nights of the week!(but that's still much different than all nighters with newborns!)

I've actually been in this season of searching for a couple of years. I did a lot of thinking and praying when Kate was in preschool 2 years ago, and last year I started on a path that led to grad school but discerned that it was one of those side trips I mentioned at the beginning of the post! None of these twisty roads God has led me on have been a waste of time. I've learned a lot as I've rediscovered myself with a life without babies and toddlers. I'm working on some issues God has highlighted along the way, like simplifying both our clutter and our finances. I've also had to grow and stretch by being open to new opportunities God has placed in my path. I've been working really hard to be in tune to God's plans for me and for our family and not to just jump at everything that crosses my path. It's not easy and I'm not perfect, but I am making progress!

In some ways, I feel like I've been in a cocoon and God has been working on my heart. I still haven't emerged completely and I'm still not sure exactly what the plan will be, but I'm trying to be content on the road that God has placed me on and I continue to have ample opportunities to work on trust!(trust has never been one of my strengths!)

Are you struggling with a "Hagar Moment" in your life?

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and rely not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make safe your path."(Proverbs 3:4-5)

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Joyful Moment

Linking up with Kelly...

#1: Filled With Joy
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Our house is riding a "joy high" because of some very special, midweek excitement......Andrew got engaged!! We are all so incredibly happy and we all love his fiance, Liz! Liz is a warm, sweet young woman whose personality fits so well with Andrew's.

#2: The Ring
Andrew has been saving up since he started his first real job in July. I was really touched that he invited me to go pick out the ring with him. Sarah made it obvious that she would love an invite too, so Andrew included her as well. He wanted Ellie to come, but unfortunately she had to spend most of the day watching/playing volleyball with her school's teams. 

Andrew did a great job communicating what he was looking for with the sales people we spoke to. We went to two stores. At the first store, the sales woman was a little too "enthusiastic" and wasn't listening to what Andrew was looking for. She also kept mentioning financing, which he repeatedly told her he didn't want to do. Andrew had a healthy budget and he wanted to stick to it!

We went to Hannoush Jewelers next and had a much better experience. That was also where Jon had gotten Marisa's ring and we happened to get the same sales woman. (which I was very excited about bc she had been so kind and helpful with Jon!) This sales woman was very attentive to what Andrew was saying and helped to explain diamond quality and the different categories. Andrew narrowed it down to three rings...then two...and, with some encouragement from Sarah who takes credit for his choice, picked "the one". It is very pretty and classy. A round diamond in a lattice setting. (Liz loves it!:)

#3: Coaching
When Kate and Luke got home from school on Wednesday I told them that Andrew was going to ask Liz to marry him that night. They were both super excited! Kate was a little concerned though and immediately dropped to one knee and said, "He needs to do it like this." So, we sent him a picture to make sure he knew how to propose the right way. (lol) Then, Kate got concerned, "What if he forgets the ring??" She is a future micromanager if I ever saw one!

#4: The Proposal
Andrew and Liz met through Catholic Match a little over a year ago. She lives about an hour away from us, so for their first date they met somewhere that was in the middle...LaSalette Shrine. Andrew wanted to propose where it all started. They always get together on Wednesday nights and usually go to dinner and play trivia somewhere a little closer to Liz's neck of the woods. Andrew told her that there was a restaurant that was starting up a trivia game in Attleboro and told her to meet at LaSalette so they could drive over together. Liz said she was "mostly surprised". I haven't actually heard the whole story from start to finish, but Andrew says that Liz interrupted him when he took a breath and said yes. Liz says that she thought Andrew was done. It makes for a cute story and is a wonderful beginning to this next stage in their relationship.

#5: Dinner became Dessert
Andrew had planned to take Liz to a really nice, romantic restaurant for dinner after the proposal. Liz, not realizing the plan, ate a really late lunch at 3 and wasn't hungry at all at 5! Just some extra practice at rolling with life! So, Andrew sent me a text to tell them they were on their way here to celebrate and could I please go get them their favorite ice cream from our local homemade ice cream store, Acushnet Creamery. I ran out to grab double chocolate(Andrew's fav) and espresso brownie fudge(Liz's fav) plus a couple other flavors for our crew for an impromptu ice cream party. I threw up some Valentine's Day lanterns and brought out the special sign I had bought when Jon and Marisa got engaged. Our parents were able to come by despite the last minute invite. Sarah asked her teacher to get out of her night class a little early. Ellie's coach let her leave the varsity volleyball game early to come and celebrate.(Ellie plays JV and her game had ended but they stay to support the varsity team.)  Marisa even drove over after her night class let out. 

#6: The Arrival
The minute Andrew and Liz got to the door they were bombarded with Kate, Luke and Peter. Kate asked, "Did she say yes?!?" Liz had the biggest smile on her face all.night.long and they were both just so happy. Despite a few minor protests from Andrew who doesn't like pictures, I got them to take a few shots under the Valentine lights. 

Kate was so excited!(and had a mouthful of food lol)

#7: On To Planning
It was such a great night just spending time together listening to everyone talk and ask questions about the thoughts Liz and Andrew had on the wedding. Seeing Ellie, Sarah, Marisa and Liz with wide eyes, bobbing heads, and smiles on their faces as they talked about details was so special. Watching Marisa and Liz compare ideas was so heartwarming since they are both going through this special time of life together. Jay and I are INCREDIBLY blessed to be able to call both of these young women our future daughters-in law! 

Liz already has lots of ideas for the wedding. She and Andrew should have the venue picked by next week(Liz already has a favorite that penciled them in but will be checking out a few more on Saturday just to be sure) and they already spoke to the priest about the church. The wedding will be this coming August(!)...and I'm sure the time will just speed by! I'm so excited to see the choices she makes and how everything comes together. I can't believe we are at this stage of life! It is truly such a joy filled time and I'm trying to just soak it all in and thank God for these blessings.

Happy weekend!
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Friday, August 31, 2018

Change and Focus

Linking up with Kelly for 7 Quick Takes Friday

#1: I have survived!

I find that when you struggle with an upcoming event for a while, (and allow yourself to wrestle with the emotions and not just "stuff" them away), when the day finally arrives it's not nearly as bad as you're afraid it will be. After struggling all summer with one of my older sons heading to another state for grad school, Jay and I spent a tear free day dropping him off at his rented room which will be his "home away from home" for a while. I think I was just resigned that this change was happening and I was ready to stop thinking about it, get it over with, and get used to a new normal.

Jon drove his car with his fiance, Marisa, on the way up, so Jay and I had a couple hours just to talk and spend time together sans kids. (As most parents of large families gotta make a "date" out of whatever time you can get!)

After lunch, a quick walk around the center of town, and helping carry in all of Jon's stuff and unpacking, we left without any tears, sobbing, or any embarrassing "emotional mom" moments.

#2: Back to Routine

School started for most of the rest of my kids this week. On Tuesday, Peter started back in his special needs high school program(which I LOVE), Luke is in 3rd Grade and Kate is in 1st Grade. A massive heat wave also started on Tuesday. Luke and Kate's school made Wednesday a half day and Ellie's first day of sophomore year ended up being a half day as well. Everyone came home with smiles this week, so at least we are off to a good start!

Peter walked up to ask and said, "Who's on my shirt?" and then he made the silliest Grumpy face EVER!
Sarah and I cracked up! Thankfully, he did it again so I could catch it!

This is Peter's real disposition. :)

#3: Five Down, One to Go
The only one left is Sarah. She starts senior year of college on Wednesday.(bc of so many high school AP credits, she is graduating 2 years early!!) We got to go out to lunch together yesterday for a little 1:1 mother/daughter time. I totally forgot to snap a pic with is so unlike me! Trying to get into a new routine has left me a little tired and discombobulated so I will blame it on that!

We had a great lunch and Sarah is excited to start a new year. She's taking 6 classes and will have to start filling out grad school applications before long. I' to take this road again so soon, so I'm just going to ignore it until at least March or April. (Sounds like a good plan to me!)

#4: Grown-up kids

It's so strange having two grown up children who are done with college. Mike(child #1) has been with his current job over a year and is still living in an apartment about 5 minutes from home. Over the last several months, the time he spends here has decreased significantly. We mostly see him on Fridays and Sundays with a very occasional weekday appearance at dinner time. 

This is (child #2) Andrew's first September since he was 4 when he hasn't been in school. He isn't sad about it at all! He is enjoying his new job and is still planning on moving in with a friend about 15 minutes away from home at some point this month. The packing process is S.L.O.W. Ellie is chomping at the bit to get her own room and is anxiously awaiting his departure.

#5: Regaining Peace
Even with all the new routines this week, I've done pretty well most days. The only tough day was Tuesday. It's always hard when my youngest two start that next grade level. With Kate in 1st grade this year, she is well on her way to becoming one of the "big kids" and that's a little hard to swallow. Monday night I stayed up way too late...I think it was a little internal rebellion to keep Tuesday from coming as long as possible, which totally backfired because it just made me really tired on Tuesday! After working in the morning, I was feeling all over the place emotionally.(A little "emotional ADHD "if you will. My thoughts and emotions felt like that Pong game I played as a kid when the ball breaks through the lower layers and bounces around spasmodically without me doing anything! I know, I'm aging myself...) Anyway, I was so tired and a little sad and a little hangry, but I made a good decision to stop at adoration for 10 minutes on the way home. I read a little from 33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr Gaitley. (For's more like 33 weeks to Merciful Love. I love this book but have been inconsistent in reading it and going through it VERY slowly. I'm getting so much out of it but I'm a little afraid to actually make the consecration.(which is a whole other blog post for another time!) 

In adoration, I read about St. Therese being on retreat and feeling nothing but aridity and abandonment. Her faith in God never wavered, and she considered it all blessing that "Jesus was sleeping in my little boat" and was "taking advantage of the repose I offer Him". In Therese's words, "instead of being troubled about it this only gives me extreme pleasure". Reading this made me think of my emotions as that storm the apostles were dealing with in the Gospel when Jesus sleeps in the boat. And I realized I was caught up in the panic of the emotional storm. What I realize I needed was to rest with Jesus until the storm passed and He helped me to see all the new directions life is heading in this Fall. In my imagination, I pictured myself resting with Him.  10 minutes after arriving at adoration with my emotions in a whirlwind, Jesus totally quelled the storm within me. I can't recommend adoration enough! Even a quick visit does wonders!

#6: The Next Best Step
After a highly emotional summer, I'm looking forward to a Fall that is filled with discerning some future goals and plans as our family grows and changes and enters into a new chapter of engagement(s?), weddings and beyond!

The first few years of my 40's has been very challenging...I've spent the last 25 years having and raising babies and as my role is changing I'm having a hard time figuring out where I fit and what God's plan is for me. Being patient is not my biggest strength, but I've certainly had lots of practice waiting on God and trying out paths that seem to be the way to go but end up being not quite right.(#gradschool) Even though I would still like a better view of the "big picture", I'm getting better at focusing on and being more content whatever baby step God seems to be putting in front of me.

#7: Fall Focus
I'm hoping to spend the Fall focusing on some topics that have caught my attention in the last few months. We are focusing more on budgeting and trying to save money for things that we would like to do. With a ton of kids, a one income household, and the high cost of Catholic high school education, we have spent lots of years just getting by. After struggling with lots of anxiety over the past year, I've tried to get a firmer grip on finances. Feeling more financially secure will be a good thing. Now that I'm working part time it's a little easier. But I still want to figure out how to do better so that we can afford to save for things like family vacation time together. I really need things to look forward to and plan...and I can't do that if we don't have the money for it. So that's one area that I have committed quite a bit of time reading up on and watching podcasts from people who have lots of tips to share. It's slow going but most days I feel optimistically hopeful.

I'm also focusing on clutter. I've been reading and listening to people talking about minimalism. While I have absolutely no desire to live in a tiny house...I get anxious and claustrophobic just thinking about it!!... I want to be more focused on getting rid of the clutter that makes me crazy. There's so much stuff we don't use and spend so much energy "organizing" and cleaning. I just want to simplify and stop any material gluttony we have going on.

Money and clutter...interesting topics that go together as we creep up to the holiday season. It's making me rethink a lot of things and I'm hoping to tweak my shopping this year. I'm trying to make my new areas of focus and my love of shopping and making my family feel special all come together in a really positive way. More on that in the days ahead, I'm sure!

Enjoy the long weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Art Of Letting Go, Grieving, and Perspective...

The calendar has turned to August, and despite my internal protests, I have no choice but to face the countdown that I have tried to avoid in my head since summer began.

August is always a bittersweet month for me. I am one of those moms that loves to have my children around me and the impending first day of school always brings with it feelings of sadness for me. This year, those feelings are magnified 100 fold...or at least that’s the way my heart feels!

In less than 2 weeks, two more of our sons will be moving out. Andrew, who graduated in May and began his first real full time job at the beginning of July, will be moving in with one of his best friends since high school. It’s only about 25 minutes away and will cut his commute time to his job to less than half the time it takes from home.

It’s a big step for him...and for us.

In only 3 days(!), Jon will be heading to grad school over 2 hours away. Visits will be limited to a couple weekends a month and school vacations. This time away has a bigger meaning because it’s more like a weaning process for us. With a wedding date set for May 24, 2020, he will never move back into our house as a full time resident again.

It’s a big step for him...and for us.

I am truly excited for both of them as they take such big steps in their personal lives.  But I would be lying if I said that it didn’t hurt. It hurts a lot. I am laboring to let go of the spot they have held in my heart and our home as children and trying to comprehend this new relationship and our new rolls that we will have with these upcoming life changes. The waiting and the countdown to the day they both actually leave and the change it will bring to our lives is like giving birth all over again. When this “emotional labor” of the countdown to moving day ends, I don’t get a beautiful snugly baby to hold in my arms!

We have spent over 20 years nurturing these sons of ours. There have been good days and bad days. There are decisions we have made that we would do differently if we had the knowledge and hindsight we have now. We are not perfect parents and they are not perfect children. But we are very proud of the young men they have become and the choices they have made so far in their lives. Their stepping out of our fold and starting their own independent lives is only filled with sadness because of the hole it will leave in our family. For that, I am very grateful.

It’s just a chest filling grief that our family life as we know it is ending...and I’m just not ready. And I’m blessed because I still have several younger kids in the house, but part of me is only thinking that I am going to have to go through this over and over (and over and over) again. These children who grew in my body and I gave birth to, the thousands and thousands of hours spent nursing, rocking, walking, caring for and loving, are moving on and all that’s left is grief and loss.
Melodramatic....maybe...but the feelings are real!

It’s a big step for us...and one I'd rather not take right now. It’s yet another thing not in my control. I’m trying to focus on being grateful for the gifts they have been in our lives and not on the fact that I will have to do this letting go thing again. I know it’s a gift to have all these children. With so many you would think a few moving out wouldn’t matter...but it really does.

Two weeks ago, I got to go to a daily Mass on my own in a different parish. The priest celebrating Mass was a retired priest that we know. I was very melancholy and emotional that day. I was having trouble with "leaking eyes". After Mass, the priest was talking to another family sitting behind me and also said hello to me and asked about my family. My eyes watered, but I was able to hold back the tears while explaining I had two heading out of the house. The priest mentioned that he was from a family of 7 and when he asked his mom when they were down to 4 left at home if she liked that things were a little easier and less crowded she replied, "I miss things the way they were."

It helps to know that you aren't alone in your feelings.

It's been an emotional summer for me living with this internal countdown and trying to work through all my feelings. I've been doing lots of praying...and lots of crying...and some days I have felt like I just can't get out of my own way and long to feel more "normal" and think "why can't I just deal with all the changes and stop having so many bloody emotions!"

And then comes perspective...

Recently, we found out that one of the staff at the high school most of my kids have gone to had thier 20 year old son, Lucas,  that was diagnosed with cancer. Jon knows Lucas and his sister was in Sarah's graduating class. I feel so incredibly horrible for this family. In a moment, they went from planning a summer vacation to putting sophomore year of college on hold and facing 6 rounds of chemotherapy treatment. I can only imagine the fears that are bouncing in their minds about what the future holds. Such a big cross for this loving, faith filled family.

My cross seems a little less heavy when I think of what Lucas' family is going through. It also helps that now my grief and suffering from the change and separation will have a purpose...I will be offering it for Lucas and his family. It gave me some good perspective and helped to calm my typhoon of grief into the tropical storm size that it really is.

For all of you moms that are getting ready to drop off your babies..err young at college or facing a big life change, just know that you aren't alone. The sadness will calm down(eventually) and our lives will settle into a "new normal" as our homes and hearts adjust. Text messages and phone calls will be little treasures...and face time is even better! While our young adults will enjoy their new freedom...and adjust to the new stress of life in a different world where they are responsible for themselves...they will become much more appreciative of the home cooked meals, comfortable beds, and having people that care for them when they come back to visit.

And, if you think of it, please say a prayer for Lucas and his family. Us moms have to stick together!

See you on the other side!

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

When Special Is Not Such A Bad Thing After All...

Two days ago, we celebrated Peter's 17th birthday!! It’s hard to believe that it was 17 years ago that they laid him in our arms for the first time!! 

The early years with Peter were filled with SO many challenges....trying to keep an incredibly impulsive escape artist safe,(I still have ptsd from the day he got out of his car seat for the first time when I was driving on the highway and got to the very back of the van laughing maniacally!!), survive his horrible sleep problems(years of waking up multiple times a week for hours at a time), and the challenge to do everything we could to help Peter be the best person he could be while grieving and letting go of all the hopes we had for him as a “neurotypical” family member.

Now, the struggles are more like speed bumps and we are able to enjoy Peter for who he is. Peter brings love and joy and silliness to our family. He is a tease like Jon and knows just what buttons to press when someone is feeling frustrated. But, more importantly, Peter is very intuitive when someone is sad or hurting and is quick to try and give hugs to make someone feel better. 

Life with Peter includes:
~using up all the space on my phone taking hundreds of pictures of dinosaur balloons(there were 500 just from this week leading to his birthday!), his Southwest Airlines tshirts, miscellaneous calendars, and wedding dresses.
~obsessing over doing laundry. I know some of you are reading this wishing that your teenager obsessed over laundry. And while it's true that I never have to worry about the laundry being done every day, it can be frustrating when Peter wants to do more laundry than we have and starts taking clean laundry from other people's rooms to try and do another load. Or stuffs his clean laundry into a load that is already running!
~Peter used to love swimming 24/7 all summer long until he turned into a teenager. Now, he enjoys the pool but needs a little coaxing to go in. And he never puts his bathing suit on...he always wants to go in with all his clothes including his black socks. It's quirky but one of those "small potatoes" of parenting that I just laugh at!
~watching him act like the "mayor" at Church, saying hello and trying to shake hands with everyone. (Then quickly asking for hugs and for people to "tickle my neck"!) 
~seeing how family members, friends and strangers can show such kindness to Peter with a kind word, a smile, or generously giving him one of those hugs I just mentioned.;)
~Peter may not be neurotypical, but he loves to try and get close to pretty girls! Especially in the summer when they are wearing tank tops...he had always love to see peoples arms. He will hover around us until we take our eyes off him for a second and saunter up to a group of girls with a big, goofy smile on his face and say in an extra deep Peter voice, "Hi.." Most girls catch on pretty quickly that Peter has special needs, and most are super nice and say hello back with a big smile. (And then Peter adds a quick, "Shake my hand..give me a hug?!" At which point we remind him that we only hug our family and friends and steer him back towards the family!)
~the special bond between my dad, "Pa", and Peter. My dad is incredible with Peter. He takes him for rides all over the neighboring towns just because that's where Peter likes to go. He lets Peter sleep over every week on Fridays, and they often bake some kind of special treat together.(or head out for ice cream to the great local ice cream stores we are lucky to have!) Peter just loves to be with Pa...and asks to go over whenever he is home.
~Peter has a simple and beautiful spirituality. It has been such a blessing to have Peter receive the Sacraments over the years at his own pace. This year, he received Confirmation and it was a very special time for our family. 

Peter loves Disney World and Martha's Vineyard!
Those are his two favorite places in the world...
and Southwest Airlines because that's how he gets to Orlando!

Life with Peter is certainly an adventure. Now that he's only a year away from turning 18, we have to start navigating new paths for Peter and research things like guardianship and start to pray about how to best set up our lives to care for Peter in the future. These are heavy topics. It certainly makes me grateful for a big family. My prayer is that multiple siblings will be willing to help Peter during adulthood when Jay and I can't care for him on our own anymore.(which is hopefully a VERY long time in the future!) 

The details might be different compared to the rest of our crew, but we hope and pray for Peter to be the best version of himself and to be surrounded with love all his life. What could be better than that?!?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Shattered Glass: Tread Lightly

Everyone feels broken sometimes.

When I was around 8, I remember standing in our kitchen holding my dad's sturdy, army green thermos. I dropped it and immediately heard the sound of shattering glass. I had no idea that the thermos had been insulated with glass! (I also remember my dad's patience with me and that he wasn't at all angry that I had just destroyed his fishing thermos of cocoa!) You couldn't tell the thermos was broken by looking at the outside of it. If you picked it up and shook it around though, you could hear the broken glass rattling around.

Sometimes I feel like that broken thermos. On the days when my hurts and brokenness are close to the surface, I feel like there is broken glass just rattling around inside of me.

On the really bad days, I feel certain that everyone can even hear it!

When I feel like I'm walking around with shattered glass on the inside, I tend to avoid people and drop off the map socially. It's isolating and just magnifies the sound of the inner brokenness ringing in my ears. Sometimes I think that part of me wants to hear the brokenness rattling around because putting on the facade of "being ok" is exhausting.
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Some things I've learned about feeling broken over the years:

-It's always God that does the healing.
When I'm really struggling with emotional pain, I just want someone to fix it. But they can't. Sometimes God uses people to bring consolation in the midst of suffering. Their words or presence or prayers can bring a flicker of hope and respite from the pain, but is always God that brings the true healing.

-Trying to escape the pain just makes the situation worse.
It's totally natural when you are feeling broken to try and find some way to escape the pain. I can try to pretend it isn't there until it's so intense I can't ignore it.(I actually tried this with the physical pain of contractions during my labor with Andrew. As you can guess, it didn't work at all!)
I can try and stuff the pain in an emotional closet and lock the door, but it always avalanches eventually and makes an even bigger mess.(Emotional clutter is an ugly thing!) I can try to take the edge off of it by eating whatever makes me feel good at the moment but just ends up adding self loathing to the mix.(I may have some personal experience with this one as well!)

-Acknowledging your feelings and waiting on God is hard work!
Being willing to look inside yourself and acknowledge all those difficult feelings is not easy.  It's in the acknowledgement of the brokenness and asking for God's help that we are truly able to work through the issues that are causing us such pain. Being willing to ask God for help and wading through that emotional hurt while God unravels and heals the brokenness is not easy. It takes time. I don't know about you, but waiting is not something I'm good at!(especially when I'm hurting)

-Don't stare at the waves, keep your eyes on Jesus.
In the waiting, there are all kinds of doubts that creep up and whisper in our ear...or echo loudly in our head: "What if this never goes away?" "What if this is all there is?" "Do I matter enough for God to help me?" It's so hard to trust in God's love and his timing when all you see is nothingness.

-Finding, and holding onto, the small, every day graces.
Maybe it's a kind gesture from your spouse, your child, or a friend. Maybe it's a smile or a kind word from a stranger. Maybe its a beautiful flower blooming in your yard or an eye catching bird that perches on your window. Maybe it's a song that comes on the radio or an article that you find in your inbox. These little signal graces are good distractions to keep yourself from focusing on the darkness. They are always there, we just need the eyes to see them. They are little reminders of God's presence and love when it's hard to see or feel Him.

- Offering your suffering for other's suffering.
It's not hard to find a family member, friend, or stranger going through something hard, too. (Just hang out on social media for about 5 minutes!) Offering up your suffering for other people gives it some meaning and purpose while you're waiting for healing. It's another way to keep yourself feeling trapped just looking at your own darkness.

-Lean on a friend.
Look around at the people that God has put in your life...and reach out to them. Let them encourage you. One of the biggest tricks of the enemy is to get you to believe the lie that you are alone---isolated people are easier to pick off. Don't fall into that trap. Stay connected and be vulnerable to a friend or friend group you can trust. Just knowing you have people caring about you and praying for you makes that brokenness a little bit lighter.

-Seek professional help.
A good Catholic or Christian therapist can help you work through some issues faster than doing it on your own. Knowing you have support and a safe place to be honest about your feelings and thoughts is important when you're struggling to work through issues that are making life a struggle.

-Christian music can be like a balm to your soul and some songs can touch your emotions so deeply that it feels cathartic. Songs can lift you up or help you to have a good cry...and sometimes a "good" ugly cry is a necessary thing!

-Ask God to put a good book in your path that will help you. I've read many books over the years that held answers and encouragement just when I needed them. Flipping through my journal earlier today, I found a quote I wrote down from the book Unseen:
"When we acknowledge the parts of us that are broken, we have significant growth spurts in God...the long broken parts of me don't disqualify me from His love. Instead, they catch His eye. He heals us-from the inside out."

-Always look for the open window when a door closes.
God gave me a little visual on this several weeks ago that I wrote about here.
Too often, I spend time staring at the darkness of a closed door and wanting it to open again. I have it set in my head what will make me feel better and take away the hurt and I'm focused on God answering my prayers in my way and in my timing. "God's ways are not our ways" and I trap myself in my suffering for longer than I have to staring at a closed door when God has a much better window open right behind me. Moral of the story...when life hits a road block, always look around for God to open a better path.

All of the above are just my own personal thoughts that come out of my own experiences and some honest hours spent journaling. I have some ideas about how to be a good friend to someone who is going through difficult times that I will share in a separate post coming soon. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Summer, Please Slooooow Down!

I cannot believe that it is already July! I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes Friday!

1. Family Time
Jay had the last week of June off and we spent 5 days of it in New Hampshire. For several years I have wanted to take the little kids to Story Land. We had taken our older crew a couple of times when they were younger, so I wanted Kate and Luke to have the experience, too. My best intentions always got pushed aside by budget constraints...but this year I was determined! Luke will be 9 next month and we are getting close to missing the Story Land window! On Black Friday this year, I bought the tickets online. I was committed! 

2. StoryLand: Past and Present
I took lots of pics as usual that I haven't even sorted through, yet. But one of the favorite pics I took was to recreate a pic we took about 12 years ago. Not a perfect recreation...but I still love it!
Mike, Andrew, Jon, and Sarah circa 2004

Peter, Ellie, Luke and Kate 2018
 Ellie was a good sport for the day. One of her goals was to get a "re-do" picture on the Bamboo Chutes. We have one from when she was around 5 making the funniest face that Jon...loving brother that he is...tormented her with over the years! Now she has a picture she can be proud of...and it will be Kate and Luke that will want the "re-do" pic! (Despite their faces, Kate and Luke loved the ride and asked to go on twice!:)

3. Hikes and Waterfalls
Our favorite spot this trip was Diana's Baths. It was the first time we had been and it was just so serene and beautiful! 
Andrew and Liz we were telling him to be careful bc it was slippery!

5 seconds later!

looking sheepish

Thankfully, Luke has a good self image and can laugh at himself!

Ellie having a quiet moment

Kate exploring

Peter playing at the top of one of the small waterfalls

Miss Sarah

Posing for mom

4. "Not The Whole Family" Time

Not all the kids could come on the trip...Mike and Jon had to work after traipsing around Ireland. (Yeah, I didn't really feel bad for them, either!). Sarah, Andrew, and his girlfriend, Liz, joined us a couple days into the trip. So for Story Land we had a small family of 4 kids!

It did feel really strange. And I have to admit that it made me a little sad...and at times a lot how our family is changing. Joy mixed with grieving. I think my internal countdown of Jon heading to grad school in mid August is ticking a little loud for my emotions. I want this summer to go extra slow and pack as much in as possible and it feels like it's just speeding by! Jay gets one more week off this summer in August...and it happens to coincide that the last day of his vacation is the day Jon leaves. I'm just really not looking forward to the change. I'm trying really hard to just stay in the moment and enjoy the time we have...but it isn't easy and it doesn't always work!

5. First Sleepover
Luke had his first non grandparent sleepover with his cousin, Brayden, last night! He had SO much fun! He woke up super early because he was in a different bed, and crashed with a nap this afternoon. He hasn't napped in years! lol

6. Another Taste of Small Family Life
It just continues to be busy around here with people going in all different directions. Last night, Sarah, Ellie, Jon and Marisa all went to the Vineyard with my Mom. Since Luke had a sleepover, that left us with only Kate, Peter and Andrew at home! So.So.Strange! Andrew and Liz headed to the Vineyard this morning, so we will be a family of 5 for the next couple of days!

7. Have a Great Weekend!