Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 reflections in depth

Looking back at 2012 I can easily think of one word to best describe it-- Tired:

Definition: exhausted, weary
Synonyms: all in, annoyed, asleep, beat*, bored, broken-down, burned out, collapsing, consumed, dead on one's feet, distressed, dog-tired, done for, done in, drained, drooping, droopy, drowsy, empty, enervated, exasperated, faint, fatigued, fed up*, finished, flagging, haggard, irked, irritated, jaded, narcoleptic, overtaxed, overworked, petered out, played out, pooped, prostrated, run-down, sick of, sleepy, spent, stale, tuckered out, wasted, worn, worn out

Take any of those synonyms and they can easily each be applied to different points in this year. Not that this year didn't have it's up sides of course, but it's super hard to enjoy anything when you look at them through all of those “weary” “annoyed” “burned out” “exhausted” (etc) feelings. Just the continual exhaustion with no apparent escape and not much short term things to look forward to have worn on me.  Going from 1 to 2 years for each girl has always been the hardest age for me to handle.  The non-stop teething and getting into things is so tiring. Trying to get more consistent with the older girls school time is a lot of work with a needy toddler. Being introverted (meaning that lots of people and strangers are energy draining to me) makes living in such close quarters and in such a large city pretty impossible to find a place where I can regain any energy alone with nature. So very often I wished that I could go to my Mom's house or hang out with my sister in law where the kids could play outside and be loved and I could get some good chatting and projects in.  I haven't had much energy to do the artistic things that I normally would love to do.  The hardest part about living here has been not knowing anyone who truly loved my girls. I can't imagine anyone loving them as well as their Gramma or Antie. Often as I wade through the hard times of every day parenting I wish someone would tell me how adorable my kids are and laugh at their jokes so that I can remember the positive side of this every dayness.

An excerpt from the book “Hope For the Weary Mom”
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

So boast, mom. Boast in the fact that you're not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough, NOT ENOUGH to be a good mom. And watch what God does. Boast. Be honest about where you are, who you are, and who you're not. Wiggle out of that straight jacket as Jesus turns the key with HIS mighty right hand and let Him be strong for you.

We are all going through something. Even if our lives look “perfect” it's still life and it's still hard. I need to explain the hard things of this year for me, not to complain, but to hopefully share the hope that I've found in the midst of it. To “boast in my weaknesses” so that Christ is glorified.

As I look back at this last year and consider other things I've gone through I'd put this last year over all as the hardest year of my life. Other years have had some bigger downs and some greater ups, but this particular year I mainly stayed in the down area. I barely had enough energy to find a “neutral” emotion and everything that I used to enjoy I couldn't seem to find the where-with-all to do.

The beginning of 2012 felt like we pushed a reset button. As if everything that had happened the year before well, just didn't work and we needed to start over. The churches we'd been going to in 2011 weren't working out so we decided to stick with one in 2012 that our kids liked. Just to give them an opportunity to make friends and give us a small break when they went to the Sunday school. Besides feeling like no headway was made that whole first year in really settling down here my biggest problem was this: How can I find the right kind of alone time to recharge and regain energy when I'm constantly around people at home and strangers every where I look? It's easy for someone to say that I just need to build a support system, go to a homeschooling group, get involved in a church, and so on, but these are people who gain energy from being around new people. I've got to find the energy to do that and it's pretty hard to gain with three little kids. I love homeschooling, but the beginning of 2012 found me rather terrified again to start. Mainly because I wasn't sure HOW to start and often afraid that I'd fail. Physically I just couldn't get the sleep I needed then. Naps during the day can't really happen when you have older ones that will fight or get things out that they shouldn't. Youssef worked well at his job and wanted to have time to write on his own projects so I kept trying to give him the time he needed in the evenings and didn't realize that I was running on empty and essentially operating almost like a single parent of three. The weariness kept building and building without any glimmer of relief as my baby became more and more active and teething harder all the time. I started resenting living here and every Texas Pride comment from locals was the sting of lemonade in my paper cut (Princess Bride reference.) In some ways what I was going through helped me to realize what Youssef went through for me when he moved to Spokane to marry me. When I looked back at the times right after we were married when he'd talk about how much he missed his Dallas friends and the bigger city and so on I was able to finally realize that it wasn't me being a disappointment to him. For instance, as a new wife you can imagine how hurt I felt when he didn't seem to want to spend time with me, lamenting that I wasn't like his friends from Dallas, but 2012 brought with it a new understanding. Grief comes in different forms and takes it's own time to heal. I've always been slower with new situations than the average person. Making friends has always taken longer for me then for others. I'm socially awkward and say the wrong things. I think I'm being open and sharing and don't realize that I sound negative and complaining. My expressions don't always match what I'm actually thinking. Even Youssef has had to ask me if I was angry when I was just concentrating or very confused. Even when we were first married and lived in Spokane it took me quite a while to learn the roads and make friends there. We'd been married for 6 years before moving to Dallas, and for all that time my goal in life was pretty much to do anything I could to make Youssef happy. Even silly things like constantly choosing foods that I thought he'd like over things that I really wanted when I went grocery shopping to where we'd live or how I arranged furniture. We went through a lot of ups and downs as Youssef discovered what he wanted to do and more often what he didn't want to do. Everything that I thought he wanted to do I tried to help make happen, but after 6 years of marriage with him still wishing that we lived in Dallas I decided that it was time to help facilitate the move. Nothing seemed to make him fully happy in Washington and the way he talked about living here made it sound like the promised land. I'm glad to see him enjoying his job now and getting to travel on business like he wanted. The first half of this year however found me in a place I've never been. I used to be an annoyingly happy, half-full, look on the bright side, singing all the time person who actually laughed while reading Ecclesiastes because it seemed so ridiculously over-the-top. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity...” Ha ha, Solomon was so silly to think everything is useless, right? Well, that's what I used to think until 2012 because I finally felt what he did. All of that striving to give Youssef what he wanted left me with almost nothing. I felt like almost everything that was important to me was traded in for something lesser. I mean, sure I wanted to live in a place that had a kitchen sink, but that isn't as important to me as mountains and pine trees and especially my family. When we talked about how I could regain some energy or how much I struggled to homeschool the girls the way I wanted to he would bring up putting them in a school. To my ideals and dreams giving up on homeschooling would have been the last petal plucked off my flower. The idea of living back in Washington was a good dream but started to become more important to me than it should. A good thing that you want too much is an idol and that's what that wish became to me. Is it true that I'd be happier if we'd never moved? Probably. Is it true that if we were there it would be easier for me to homeschool because of the support system that I already had? Yes. Is it true that the girls wouldn't miss their grandparents and cousins and snow if we still lived there? Of course. Is it true that I'd be able to find the rest that I desperately needed and an enthusiastic baby-sitter in my Mom? Totally. I began to kick myself for helping to make this move happen because I knew that if I'd not been so supportive of his dream and planned out the move we wouldn't be here now.

Then my Grandma Betty died and a few other people also passed away, and now every time my Mom asks if I'm busy and if she can call I have a moment of dread. I'm afraid that I will hear bad news about someone who was closer to me being sick or who had been in an accident or something. These thoughts make me constantly regret the time that I can't spend with them right now and subsequently lead me to resenting even more where we live now.

Yes, I know I should be enjoying where I am, the pool at our apartment and my girls and the little things here, but by the time half of 2012 was through I was so thoroughly run-down physically and emotionally (again, look at all of this through the tired synonyms) that I was merely feeling these things though I couldn't have expressed them at the time. If you asked how I felt then and I answered honestly I'd have said I felt “nothing.” I was so done-in that I didn't even have the energy to feel anything let alone ask for help or know what to ask. At the end of July I was able to take the girls up to Washington for a month and though the trip there was a lot of work I finally started getting the rest I needed as the weeks rolled on. I had a chance to work through some anger and unforgiveness that I didn't know I'd been feeling. Being able to reflect was helpful even if it was bringing up some old wounds and strong emotions. The trip was far too short of course, but I at least was able by the end to respond more to my littlest when she cried. After I was there for a week I started waking up from the tired daze I'd been in and saw my children for the first time in a long time. I began to work with them again on asking for things nicely and got back some of my sanity enough to come up with ways to entertain my baby when she was upset or teething. The flight home went much smoother with a Mommy that actually had something to give her children.

I even had the energy when we were back to start up their schooling in a good way and the one hour each month that Youssef and I watched the toddlers during church didn't do me in for the entire day anymore like it had at first. I actually looked forward to it and felt fine when it was over! That said, while I felt like I had more energy after the long visit home a few months later the Holidays came and anyone who's grieved over a loss will remember how hard holidays can be. Memories can be painful and it's easy to become discouraged and feel alone all over again. The beginning of 2013 almost could have started the same as 2012, but for one very important thing.

Around Christmas time I started reading a book called “Hope for the Weary Mom” and while I'd started other books that seemed to be useful, there wasn't any that helped me as much as this one. Because, as I said at the beginning, this whole year can be summed up in every way with being tired. I've been weary all year in every way possible with very little hope. Where do you find energy and encouragement when all the usual things and places and people that help you aren't near anymore? A once a year visit with my Mom that is only made possible by generous people with air miles isn't a viable long term solution to my problem. Youssef's family is around even less then I get to visit mine. I'm faced with the same struggle with figuring out how to build a support system while finding ways to recharge. It's the every day stuff that I struggle with. Actually, even if I did have a support system or more help I don't know that they could give me enough of what I need. That would be helpful, but it's not the first thing that I need. First I need hope, and much as I'd like to see an end to living here or even a glimmer of long term viability; like being able to buy a house that works better for our family while giving us the chance to save up for planned trips to Washington (it's more expensive here to rent than to buy, but we can't buy a place for at least three more years, which is a completely different vein of this story that I'm not going to get into) – I can't put my hope in the things of this world.

Another excerpt from “Hope for the Weary Mom”
See, hope is not a wish or a sprinkle of magical fairy dust. Hope is a person. Hope comes with flesh and blood in Jesus. when I call to him, He comes quickly. He has no expectations of me. Actually, it is quite the opposite. He says things like: "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
He wants to help me. He wants to comfort me. Hope wants to lift my heavy burdens and give me sweet soul-rest. When I am honest about my struggle and I take off the veil, I am in place to receive this comfort. There is nothing between us, and hope reaches straight to my heart.

As I open my eyes, I see the dishes are still close to a national disaster. Nothing has really changed in a physical sense. I get up, and the tears start to flow a bit. He leans in close and whispers it again, "Surely I will help you. Surely."
And He does.

I can look back over this past year and see where He has been showing His love for me. Where He has seen me hurting or being angry or kicking against this place He's placed me in and has still loved me. Almost the very day this spring that I prayed for God to bring me a friend, I met a mom out by the pool with her daughter almost the same age as Gracie. They'd just moved in and I was constantly surprised about how many areas we could connect on. Then I was super excited to see that her husband got along really well with Youssef! Youssef and I aren't the average couple so it's wonderful to meet another couple that both of us get along well with.

The most recent blessing was on Christmas day when I was in the kitchen cooking and trying not to be depressed as some memory flooded back to me and I thought about how we were spending our Christmas alone again this year and right at that moment when I was tearing up it began to snow. Yes, snowing ON Christmas day in Dallas. You might call that a coincidence, but I know better. It was a special gift from the lover of my soul. We got a quarter of an inch and I got to see my girls (who had been saying again and again since October how much they wanted to play in snow) go out on our balcony and throw snow balls at each other! Everything turned white and clean and pure and I remembered once again about how Jesus takes our mess and makes it as white as snow.

And here I need to add another excerpt from “Hope for the Weary Mom.”

Why are we serving God?
The crowds followed Jesus closely as He healed their sick, made their lame walk, and made life and breath and being enter back into their dead. He had filled their stomachs with bread, met their needs, made their spirits soar as He fulfilled His calling from Isaiah 61 to bind up the broken-hearted and release the captives. But the tone of the conversation changed in John chapter six as Jesus began to reveal the real reason He had come, and question why they were following Him.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." (John 6:26)
Why do you seek Him? Why do I? Jesus begins, with these words, to draw the line in the sand. "Why do you love me?" He says. "Why are you following me? Is it because of what I can do for you, how I can meet your needs, or provide what you want? Or do you really love me for who I AM?"

"After this many of the disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as
well?'" (John 6:66-67)

When life hurts too much, many walk away... turn back from following Jesus and walk with Him no longer. I've felt that pull to walk away. I've questioned God's goodness, felt an icy grip on the edges of my heart as it begins to wonder if He really cares about His children, about me.
But the question that always stops me is this: If I turn away from Jesus, where will I go?

Jesus who died for me while I was in the midst of sinning. Jesus, who gave His life a ransom for mine. Jesus, who paid the penalty I deserved to pay. His back laid open should have been mine. His face bruised and battered should have been mine. His blood spilled should have been mine. I should have been called a traitor, my integrity questioned. I should have been publicly ridiculed for my sin, my attempts at being God tried before a jury of my peers. I should have died with the weight of my sin upon my shoulders, God's hand of wrath on my head.

He took it all.

"Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.'" (John 6:68-69)

There comes a time in the life of every believer when we must choose to turn away or follow Jesus no matter what, because we know He holds the words of eternal life... He is the Holy One of God. And that's all that matters.

Why do we seek Him? Is it so He can perform for us, take care of all our needs, bind up our wounds, raise our dead? He is that God. He sees us. But if we only follow Him because of what He does, there will come a time when we feel like He doesn't. And then we must choose if we will turn away or follow through the times when life hurts too much because of who He is, the God who bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2), and gives up His all to give us life.

So my healing from life's losses comes down to this: I follow Jesus not because of what He can do for me, but because of what He's already done for me on the cross. I keep my eyes firmly on the cross, and remember this greatest act of love between God and man. I continue to hurt for the losses, but I begin to see a glimmer of hope. A faint blush of warmth fills my heart anew as I remember just how much He loved me.
And it's enough.

Jesus loves me and He is enough. He HAS to be because even when everything is “perfect” it's really not. I might think that “this” or “that” will bring fulfillment, but in the end everything disappoints-- except Jesus. People ask why God allows bad things to happen. He could stop them right? Yes, he could and sometimes does, but more often he uses those things to give us something far better than what we think would be good on this earth. What is that thing? That “if only ______ would happen” then it would all be better? Whatever you thought of to fill in the blank is a far lesser thing than what He wants for us and He wants to give us Himself-- the Alpha and Omega.

It seems that I'm always having to re-learn this and where to go when I need comfort. It's easy to say that Jesus is everything, but not go to Him first when a problem or discouragement comes up. Too often I go to Facebook or food as my “functional savior”... just something to make me feel better or give me an escape, but those good things can become too important when I go to them to “hide” instead of crying out to Jesus.

Another excerpt--
If hopelessness had a day, it was when they placed the body of Jesus in a tomb and rolled the stone in place. Many of His followers hid that day. Most of them did in fact. Who could blame them? I probably would have been right in the middle of the crew of eleven in the upper room that day.
But Mary Magdalene did not hide. Instead she went to where she knew Jesus could be found. Scripture tells us she and the other women went to prepare the body for a proper burial, but I think she went for different reasons. I believe she went to pour out not only oil, but her desperate heart as well. Broken and honest she fell to her knees before the empty tomb. What a picture, right? It is so like us, too. We fall down before Him and think He is nowhere to be found. When really, He is there about to move in a way we could never imagine.
Jesus spoke her name. She knew it was Him. He met her in the middle of her sorrow and she was never the same. That day, Mary became the first grace clinger. She did not want to let Him go. Because she saw with her own eyes that running to Jesus can bring about a miracle.
When we cling to Jesus He does a miracle in our lives too. We need to come to a point where we believe, along with Mary, that hiding anywhere away from Jesus is never going to result in victory in our lives. What happens when we run and hide from the calling He has placed on our lives as moms, is that we end up running and hiding from our source of strength-- Jesus.

Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

We don't really want a mocha frappe when we are weary. What we really want is rest for our weary souls. We have got to get into the habit of running to Him and not from Him. And honestly, I'm speaking to this mama first.

We run to a Throne of Grace.
It's His kindness that leads us to repentance.
Not His wrath. Not His judgment. Not His punishment for sin. Kindness. Love. Mercy. Forgiveness.
That's what our children need from us the most, isn't it? ... to be able to control what comes out of her mouth. We say things like, "I didn't mean it like that," or "I don't know what came over me," but the reality is that we're stressed, deflated, disappointed, and overworked most of the time. We live through seasons of constant failure.
Isn't it wonderful that He does not guilt us or shame us into repentance? He isn't that voice inside my head that tells me how often I fail and that everyone hates me and why would they like me anyway when I'm so unlikeable? No, he leads me to repentance by His kindness. He sits with me through the mess and understands. The gospel is not just important to proclaim because we are saved from hell after death it's important right now because we are saved and being saved RIGHT NOW from our sins.

I want to take a moment now to thank those friends of mine who have listened to my up and down emotions (mostly down) through this year especially, and still stuck with me and encouraged me and prayed for me through these hard transitions. It is a rare friend who can look past the words being spoken and love me anyway. My Mom and sister-in-law have been a huge part of encouraging me. If Jesus' kindness leads us to repentance it's pretty safe to say that our kindness to each other can be used by Him to lead us to repentance more easily than harsh words.

“A true Christian is one who lives a life of repentance.” If you've been taught that being a Christian means reading your Bible and going to church and “looking right” to the world then you don't know the gospel. Those things aren't wrong and might happen on their own, but it's not the good news! The good news is that He's right with us and understands and forgives as we continually repent from our idols over and over again till He fills and mends every part of our broken hearts.

I also want to thank Youssef. The more I think back through this year and how hard it was and how I acted, I'm more and more thankful that my husband has stuck with me. At times I know he wished I could just “snap out” of the tired funk and depression, but he always tries to love me better and listens even when he doesn't understand what is wrong with me. I wasn't a great mother or a great wife this past year. In 2012, I felt like I was barely surviving and put too much energy into holidays and decorating so that my children wouldn't feel as sad as I did. But God is bigger than my failings and I'm happy to look back and see how far each of the girls has come and grown in spite of me.

More excerpts--
"It's habits that can imprison you and it's habits that can free you and when thanks to God becomes a habit, so joy in God becomes your life," Ann Voskamp

Weariness for me is a habit of my heart. I get bogged down by the things of life because--let's face it-- life is hard. I don't want to be imprisoned by my weariness habit anymore. My thanks giving, my daily counting joy-filled gifts unlocks the prison and sets me free. Author Sarah Young says in her book Jesus Calling: "Each day is a precious gift from My Father. How ridiculous to grasp for future gifts when today's is set before you! Receive today's gift gratefully, unwrapping it tenderly and delving into its depths. As you savor this gift, you find Me.”

For 2013 I don't want to make “goals” so much as build habits of thankfulness and running to Jesus first. I want to notice his blessings right now and at least come to a point where it's not painful to see or hear people glorifying Texas. That is what I wish for in this next year. We will still be balancing the times of rest and activity between the five of us. Youssef will still be learning to balance his sensory perception disorder. I will still be introverted and shy and nervous about driving the busy roads. We will still be tired and weary at times and sad and grieving. Some things will get easier with the girls while other things grow harder, but those things that we look forward to changing to make our lives easier can't become all consuming. Because they will never satisfy.

Last excerpt from “Hope for the Weary Mom”
In this beautiful allegory, (Hinds Feet in High Places) Much-Afraid is invited to go to the high places by the Good Shepherd. She must take a long journey to get there, and along the way she encounters many difficulties. She climbs mountains, walks in the desert, and survives storms. The chapter in the book that has always spoken most clearly to my heart is entitled, "Into the Mist." Here's an excerpt:
"Now there was nothing but tameness, just a trudge, trudge forward, day after day, able to see nothing except for white clinging mist which hung about the mountains without a gleam of sunshine breaking through"

Much-Afraid was overwhelmed by her situation. She grew weary by the moment and began to listen to the voices of Resentment, Bitterness, and Self-pity. This "made her very disagreeable and difficult to deal with." She stumbled about and limped along directionless. She was completely miserable and on the verge of giving up all together.
.... What did Much-Afraid do? "At last, one afternoon, when the only word which at all described her progress is to say that she was slithering along the path, all muddy and wet and bedraggled from constant slips, she decided to sing."

The most amazing thing happened as she sang-- she cheered a bit. The voices of Resentment, Bitterness, and Self-pity faded away, and to her great surprise she saw the Good Shepherd coming toward her.

"It is just impossible to describe in words the joy of Much-Afraid when she saw him really coming toward them on that dreary mountain path, where everything had been swallowed up for so long in the horrible mist and everything she touched had been so cold and clammy. Now with his coming the mist was rapidly clearing away and a real gleam of sunshine-- the first they had seen for days-- broke through at last."

... I see myself in the pages each time I read the words. And you want to hear something funny? I absolutely love to sing. But some days, when I just want to give up, I forget that. I forget the song God Himself has written on my heart. Instead I listen to voices all around me that tell me to eat a mini pint of java chip ice cream and call my mom to complain. I think I'm alone in my journey and I forget my Good Shepherd is right there with me the whole time. It seems so simple, but we have got to find a song to sing on the most weary-filled days. But where can we find a song?
“I Need Thee Every Hour”

If I picked a song to take me through 2013 it would be this one, and when I look back at the best times in my life they have been those times when I chose to sing and praise God in the midst of depression. And here I am again remembering what He's teaches me over and over again. The older I get the harder life seems to become and the more I know that I can't do any of this without Him.

“I need thee every hour I need thee, oh bless me now my savior I come to thee.”


lenorediviney said...

you are precious in HIs sight lynne'. I pray that this is a year of encouragement, healing, and hope. I have not really opened up with you about my struggles since our move to the ridge two summers ago to find a church and make new friends in my new area. Even a little move can make big changes. I still have some friends that are only 20 min away but nothing like I grew up with. No special person on speed dial. we need a family to connect with. My dear friend Hannah and her husband just moved to *Dallas. ha ha!

Lynne' said...

You know.. I don't even know if I have your phone number! Not that it's easy to have a conversation while the kids run around screaming though. Yeah, moves are hard in general and this one has the farther distance and the third person added to our family to make the transition harder. I know it's not the fault of Dallas that I'm having a hard time fitting in and stuff.. it's just where I am in life.. it's hard to get everyone in our family to function well together with a new baby so to add the fact that we need to learn to function well in a new place is just that much more work. I have hope though... I think it will keep getting better. It's already easier with my girls too! They are learning to get along better.. it's just a lot of work to help them get to that point! I enjoyed seeing Lily and Renna play baby dolls together for like 3 hours yesterday. :)