Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the paper plate parable

Today I woke with a little more bounce in my step then the last couple weeks. The last day of school will do that for a mama! Getting to this spot has brought my heart so much respite. Like a weight lifted off my shoulder. After a long month of more then usual responsibilities, it is nice to let one thing fall off the plate. My son's 2nd grade year has come to a close and I think the whole family has been waiting for this day for some time! It was a tough year and while I didn't like the beginning of this journey very much, I feel so at home with where the beginning led us to. I have thoroughly enjoyed doing part time home-schooling. Ending 2nd grade with my boy who has spent his afternoons home with us the last 5 months is such a beautiful moment. I feel like we all tackled this year together, as a family. It was different and took more from me in the mom department, but the heart growth we've all had and the extra built in time for our relationships has been so, so good. The five of us have truly benefited from this structure for this season in our lives. I would do it again in a heart-beat if I had to choose.

In all the added things to our schedule the last few weeks and my total crash last weekend after exhausting every angle of myself, I have looked back at what I would do different...given the next time I decide to home-school, raise chickens, nurse a baby, start a business, do day-care, and all the normal stay-home mom stuff we all attempt to do everyday. Yes, I have definitely learned what NOT to do along the way this month!

This is where my paper plate parable comes in. Looking back, I had a lot of big things on my plate. And the pace was much faster then I ever intend to live my life. I knew going in that it would be a crazy few weeks. I didn't know it would almost swallow me whole when I was so close to the end. I should have been better prepared, like when I know a baby is arriving into our home soon and stock the hall cupboard with paper plates like they are going out of business at the paper plate factory.

Here is the truth. I will have another busy season like this short one this last month. Everybody has unusually busy seasons in their life. So often our commitments in our lives will intertwine a time or two and we will catch ourselves running very fast to keep up. It is okay to have a paper plate season every so often amongst your home. It is temporary and does not define who you are at that moment, but rather who you are working at becoming. A mom after God's own heart knows when to pull out the paper plates and when to serve with her best china. Paper plate seasons are all around us and I am fairly young in the parenting journey, thus I am positive I will find myself in another paper plate stage of life.

While I attempted to keep all my things afloat this last month, I became incredibly discouraged when so much of what I was doing felt like it was all falling around me. I really felt like I was not doing 1 thing in my life well. It was overwhelming and so frustrating and Satan loves getting me down to that place of discouragement and doubt. I should have gone into this season with my paper plates in stock.

Next time, I will let some little things go for a bit while I keep the bigger things of the moment moving ahead. I will use paper plates more and be okay making 10 lbs of taco meat to serve every which way you can name it.  I will rent some good learning videos from the library and feel good throwing that in if I need some work time quick. I will set up "help days". Days already planned for my kids to go have fun some place else, with someone else, so I can get some work done. And be okay with that. I will say no to almost anything that comes up last minute, knowing I need to stay focused on whats already going on, and will not add to my commitments in the midst of over-committed mode. I will delegate when it comes to the house chores more. I enjoy serving my family in this area, usually. But when my mind and energy is being used up in other areas, I fail in this area miserably. A cluttered and messy home makes me feel anxious inside and I can imagine my family probably doesn't enjoy "relaxing" when there are old diapers sitting next to them and the chewed up tennis balls all amongst their feet and breakfast dishes still sitting smelling up the kitchen :) As for home-schooling...that's the beauty of homeschooling. You can take breaks when life gets moving faster then usual. Let that move down a bit on the list for a few weeks. It will still be there when this all passes! I will skip baths a bit more and know sending my dirty children to bed will not make them sleep worse or better. I will say yes to all offers of help. I will go to bed as soon as I can and get as much sleep as possible (those dirty clothes will still be there in the morning!).

Paper plate seasons will happen. I know the norm here is not paper plate mode. But, it doesn't hurt to let them take over for a bit while you keep your heart, mind, and body in a good place for yourself and your loved ones. For me to let go of a few little things while the load is heavy, lets me make the big things like our relationships and the tone of our home stay in tact. We're all going to have those times in our lives when the paper plates just need to be pulled out. And it is okay. For we all know that when those paper plates run out or aren't needed anymore, the brightly colored teal glass ones are anxiously awaiting to be used again and the people eating off of them will hardly have felt the difference.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the ugly truth

Day 23. I knew this month was going to be hard. And I am at day 23. It is feeling very hard right about now. Hard to keep going strong with Jaxon's home-schooling in the afternoon's, hard to finish well with my daycare kids and be sure they get to enjoy the spring season of gardening and backyard fun and science experiments and learning about being a little seed themselves that God is growing all the time that I usually make happen at my house this time of year, hard to find time to pay attention to my husband...real attention, not the kind where I just nod my head and pretend I am listening to him at the end of the day even though my brain is zapped and my body is exhausted, hard to really be mentally available for my kids as I juggle a bazillion details through my head each day and go to bed missing them like crazy because I feel like I was never really "with" them during the day, hard to find alone and quiet time to be with my Lord and let Him fill me up when I grow weary, hard to make meal times a happy and much looked forward to part of our day here, hard to find time to wash clothes and clean house and weed gardens and put winter clothes away while spring ones just get piled on top in over-flowing drawers, hard to launch a business and do it well, hard to get to church, hard to see my friends, hard to be available for anything out of the normal, hard to make the money needed to pay the bills. Whew. May just was going to be hard, but I was up for the I thought. So I think?

But the ugly gut wrenching truth is I am exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed and sleep deprived (which makes EVERYTHING seem way worse then it usually is). I have so much on my plate that I feel like I am doing none of them well. At all. And the things that matter the most to me are getting the worst of me. I truly believe God does not intend for us to live our lives in the "busy" lane all the time. And for good reason, as that pace leaves you with no reserves when things really get hard. I hate feeling like my first response when someone asks me is "busy". I don't like this pace of life and while being busy with a healthy amount of things is good, being so busy that you are missing life is bad. And I feel like I am missing life right now.

I know I have a lot of things on my plate and I knew this month of crossing responsibilities a bit was going to stretch me. I have hit panic mode a few times and feel a bit lost in the fog at the moment. Starting a new business is tough stuff, on top of normal everyday duties, and not seeing quick results for months of hard work has left me really confused about God's calling for me and my family. That frustrates me because I hate to waste anything and I especially hate things that waste my time or anyone else's time. You can't get time back. In all my frustrations I have found my heart is a bit bitter and it just leaves a yucky taste in my mouth. Bitterness is an evil root and once it sets in it can leave a very ugly open wound. In the fog I am losing sight of the things in my life I am so thankful for, I am losing my grateful heart, and just a little frustrated with my current spot. That thing that happens to me when life changes too quick on me is happening...I freeze, I panic, I stop. I become afraid to move forward. Instead of being energized I am becoming numb and paralyzed. Doing nothing is worse then trying something!!

I feel dried up. I was feeling this way when I went to bed last night and I awoke very early today trying to let God speak to me a bit, to calm my anxious heart. I started to remember the story in 1 Kings when Elijah had to depend on God to provide food and water for him, literally. Elijah depended on God's gifts to survive, but eventually the brook dried up and Elijah had to depend on God himself, not the things he thought he needed to survive. God blesses us with provisions daily and sometimes I recognize them and some days I don't. The important thing I am learning is to not panic when those provisions dry up. Bad time to question God's goodness for my life. Instead I want to trust God himself that he will provide a new source...a new way. I am in a foggy place and have had my eyes squeezed tight a couple times during this hard stage. But I am peeking them open, slowly, trying to see past the fog to the light that I am sure is just ahead. Frustrated or not, God has me here at this moment and I want to be wise with what He has put before me. I want to finish well. Only 8 more days!

I am not writing this to get sympathy votes or for anyone to feel bad for me. I write this ugly truth post because it's real and it's what moms go through and it is just life. And we're all here at some time or another and I don't want to sugar-coat it. Life is just hard at times and those hard moments do not have to define us. I know life will slow down, I know God will care for me and my family, I know His plan is meant to be good and hopeful. Hard moments stretch us and make us better and I am all for that. I just don't always like the growing pains that come with it and most of all, I hope that in the long run that relationships aren't left uncared for for too long while I try to see my way into the clearing. 8 days and counting...

Monday, May 7, 2012

from there to here

Like a weather man predicts a good rain storm coming our way, I knew that spring time around here would feel a bit stormy at times. But like many good storms, we usually needed the rain and a few days later the grass is always greener, flowers are blooming, and the world seems suddenly more beautiful after a good rain. If you've read earlier in my blog posts, you also know I have been feeling this nudge to be a bit more courageous in my faith, for my family, or with my heart. It's scary to try new things and I am so slow to adapt to big changes. Things sound exciting to me until it starts happening and then I panic a bit inside. I doubt and sometimes doubting freezes my good intentions and I do nothing to move forward. Well, I'm trying really hard to not let my doubts, fears, and unknowns paralyze me. These last few months I've just decided to jump, to take leaps of faith and see where it lands me. And so I am going from there to here these days...

First of all, these little years of my children are days I have prayed for since before I was married. I prayed for my future children and looked forward to these mommy days like little boys dream of being football stars. Now that it is here I am loving it, but also living in reality of making it work with things that also happen when you get grown-up responsibilities put on you besides just being a mama. Bills have to be paid some how, children have to be trained some how, relationships have to be nurtured some how, others must be served some how, houses need cleaning, meals made, and growing must be allowed.  Being a mama also means holding onto some sort of identity other then being called "mom", even though most days that is all I really care to be called.

As I slowly stepped out of the fog of having a new baby I was seeing that there were just some things I wanted to be courageous about. Things that held a lot of value for me, but at the moment my current circumstances were making it hard to achieve. I'm slowly getting an everyday perspective that this life here is very temporary and what I do today really matters in the long haul. How I spend my hours is pretty important, considering it could be my or my family member's last minutes at any given time. For as much as I prayed for these years with little ones, I didn't want to waste them.

These thoughts started to lean hard on my heart and I slowly started to make some decisions in favor of establishing some good new rythems to how we function here as a family, growing up little hearts for Jesus and getting to know our Savior more ourselves. The first big leap was going to part time home-schooling. God has honored this choice and made it work really well for our family right now. I love what it has done for my relationship with Jax and his over-all growth. Another leap was getting chickens. I am serious. My middle son is a lover of animals and I saw an opportune moment to really hone in on some of his gifts and use the caring of animals as a great lesson in life in many areas. Seems silly and like ridiculous extra work, but at this house with this kid, it's worth it. And maybe the biggest leap of all... starting a whole new job. I have worked in the arena of early-childhood for 11 years. Teaching and doing in-home daycare in some way or another since I graduated from college. While I have a huge passion for leading the little ones, loving on them, and preparing them for the next big years as a child, I knew as we added a 3rd child of our own that this sort of job for me was really going to stretch how well I could balance family and work. So when I had a friend ask me if I had thought about starting my home-made baby-food business lately, I first laughed it off and then started to really give it some serious thought.

How did I get here you might ask? Any one who knows me well, knows I enjoy being in the kitchen and bringing good food to those I love. I love what gathering around a table with others does for relationships and I love reaching people's hearts through the art of a good meal. I think eating well is important, but I also know eating something especially tasty can make a bad day seem alright again. I have made my babies first bites from the beginning, have enjoyed teaching my friends and family how to serve up some fresh baby bites, and love sharing those first experiences with baby and food with others. I've never thought of myself as someone with the ability to start my own business or offer something special, but a little nudging from a few friends, a good support from my hubs, and asking God to lead the way has led me to this new adventure called Mama Made.

I had no idea where to start or how or when. A friend mentioned the farmers market circuit and I started to really explore that avenue. Praying hard as I tip-toed forward with this idea, I actually started to see it start to take shape and become more than an idea, but an actual means to an ending that I wanted for my family. I have been overly blessed with the amount of help I've had to get this off the ground. My incredibly talented friends and family have stepped in to offer their skills to help make this business idea come to life. One step after the other started to fall into place and before I knew it, I was standing in my very own farmers market booth next to my best partner ever, my sweet sis-in-law, Heidi. Getting to that place was a lot of hard work. A lot. I would lie to say it wasn't really hard at times and there were moments I wanted to just quit. But, I also am holding onto the truth that I knew this was going to be a crazy spring, May especially. The work/family balance feels really off centered right now, but I know we'll be sitting in green grasses and seeing the beautiful flowers soon...after the storm is over. At least I am trusting God's leading right now and hoping that is the outcome!

I have been forced to really get out of my comfort zone as I move ahead with this. I have had to ask for help, specific help, which is hard for me. I have had to let some things slide for a bit while I worked to get some of these other things going. I have had to let my friends and family see me frazzled and exhausted and unsure of myself.  I have had to stay up really late, say no to other things, turn my TV on more then usual for my kids while I worked, make tacos to eat for days in a row, let my laundry pile up to the ceiling, and just barely keep things afloat at times while I did all I could to get this off the ground. I am learning lots, tons actually. And if this business is nothing more then a step into something else eventually, then I know that I have given my all into this plan for now, God has opened doors, and I am jumping with my eyes wide open to any and all possibilities. My biggest worry is that I will let too much space get between my relationships with my family and friends while I go ahead full throttle for a short bit. And that all this work now, will hurt any relationships in the long run.

I really want these new adventures to be a good, good thing for our family. To allow for a better home focused way of life where I have more time to train and be with my own children. A routine where I go to bed at night feeling good about how I spent my day with my family, where I am with friends and family outside of this home, and connected to Jesus. I want my hours to count in the right way, so when this temporary home becomes my past, I can look back and know I spent it wisely and in the light of the Lord.

I am so thankful for the relationships in my life that have helped me get to this place. My life is a puzzle put together with people from many places along the journey. I know God uses these people to help mold husband, my kids, my family, my friends, and sometimes total strangers with short encounters. I am excited about where this crazy season of trying new things could take us as a family. I'm also a bit scared about what it could do. So time will tell, but for now I know I am moving from there to here...